Facebook Censorship, Thy Name is EdgeRank

Remember the days when you could load Facebook.com and be presented with a feed of updates in perfect chronological order? Sure, you probably had to skim through your fair share of silly pictures and mundane “just got out of the shower” updates, but you saw everything your friends posted, whether you liked it or not.

Then along came EdgeRank. EdgeRank is Facebook’s proprietary system for evaluating the popularity of anything posted and where it should appear (if at all) in the news feeds of your friends and fans. If you are a casual Facebook user, you may have asked yourself some of the following questions in the past few months:

  • Why didn’t one of my best friends see that I checked in to the new Bond movie last night?
  • Why do I see so many memes and image posts in my feed?
  • Where did all of the mundane (but once in a while important) updates go?

As you might guess, each of these experiences is a direct result of EdgeRank. This open act of censorship by Facebook has strongly affected both individual users and page managers since its implementation. Frustratingly, the trend only seems to be continuing, with some pages reporting as much as 50% less reach during October 2012 than during August 2012.

Why Should Page Managers Care?

The average Facebook business page with less than 92,000 fans receives between 6% and 12% reach to its fans. In other words, even with great content and a well-established fan base, a page manager has a “good day” by reaching only a small fraction of their potential audience. To be very clear, this doesn’t mean that 6% to 12% of fans interact with a page’s posts, it means that on average only 6% to 12% of fans even SEE A POST at all.

Can you imagine if email marketing worked this way? Over time you have gathered a list of opt-in email address (Facebook Likes), to which you send regular messages (Facebook posts), except that each subscriber’s email provider (EdgeRank) determines whether your message even makes it to their inbox. The entire purpose of opt-in subscriptions is to deliver messages that somebody has requested; those who do not wish to receive future messages may unsubscribe.

Let’s take a look at an example of how this impacts a Facebook page. DJ Tech Tools is an excellent resource for digital DJ tips and advice, something I love to see in my personal news feed all the time. Due to Facebook’s recent changes to EdgeRank, they posted the following update and paid $7.00 to promote it to ensure as much of their fan base saw it as possible.

Savvy brand pages are being forced to make posts like the one above requesting users to essentially “re-Like” their page in order to receive updates. As also evidenced in the above example, Facebook’s changes could be a major motivation for pages to increase their presence on Google+.

Why Should Users Care?

The “intent” of EdgeRank is to prevent Facebook users from being bombarded with branded messages, instead showing only the most interesting and relevant posts. While this sounds great in principle, it essentially amounts to the average news feed being full of at least three of the following posts:

  • Sponsored stories (paid ads)
    • Ex: Your friend just Liked this Page! (a page you do not Like)
  • Image posts and memes from large or popular pages
    • Many of the same images with different text over it
  • Discussions with lots of comments or interaction
    • Often this is an argument or two-way discussion taking place via comments

If you look at the list above and are satisfied with seeing only that type of content, then you and EdgeRank are sitting in a tree (don’t be afraid to make the first move). If you want to see the rest of the things happening in your social network, you will have to regularly employ the tips below.

What Can Be Done?

If you are a page manager, the best idea is to make a post like the one discussed above in which you pay $7.00 to promote a message that encourages fans to go to your page and select “Get Notifications” from the Like button hover menu. This is the most effective way at the moment to increase your guaranteed audience for posts.

If you are an individual user, perform the same task for the pages you really, really want to see updates from. Otherwise, each time you load your news feed you can click the “Sort” dropdown and select “Most Recent” to turn your news feed into the old-school view that shows everything (image below). Of course, Facebook does not let you make this the default view and instead requires you to click it each time you load your news feed.

Facebook censorship, thy name is EdgeRank.

If you enjoyed this post please give it a Like to help it beat EdgeRank!  +1’s and tweets are entirely encouraged as well.

Andrew Germer

About Andrew Germer

Director of Social Media at Best Rank, Inc.
Connect with Andrew Germer on Google+

3 Comments

  1. Pingback: Best Rank Blog: Facebook Censorship, Thy Name is EdgeRank « AndrewGermer.com

  2. Nick Stamoulis

    It’s frustrating that Facebook has taken it upon themselves to censor things like this. If someone Likes a page, it means that they are interested in it and want to see updates. There’s no reason to keep this content from them.

    • Andrew Germer
      Andrew Germer

      I strongly agree Nick. It’s starting to feel like a “bait and switch” more each day.

  3. Jeff

    Excellent write up on this subject and great example post to keep facebook fans in the loop.

    Reminds me of my hope for improved feed readers with mark-as-read. https://www.jeffpelton.com/posts/mark-as-read

    I love to oversubscribe using a reader, but also never read the same thing twice. And I can ensure that I read everything I need to, achieving inbox 0.

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