parallax background

How The Facebook Algorithm Determines Your Success.

My Multi-Use Mixer Stand Project
July 4, 2016

If you've ever wondered how stuff goes viral on social media, why things either get a lot of Likes/Shares/Comments or DON'T, and why Facebook exists in the first place, this article is for you..

How does Facebook make money? Ad revenue.

What does it do to generate the most ad revenue?
It keeps you using the service as much as possible and keep you engaged.

How does it do that?
By posting the most interesting and engaging posts from all the people you are friends with and follow.

How does it KNOW what are "the most interesting and engaging" posts?
The algorithm.

How does the algorithm work?
It uses artificial intelligence to determine and predict how popular a post is going to be.

Seriously though, in a very basic form, it looks for patterns. You have a history - a quotient assigned to you based on everything you've ever posted and how well it performed in keeping other users entertained and engaged. Have you posted a lot of things that people L/C/S (Like/Comment/Share)? LCS is weighted, BTW. Likes are worth the least, Shares are worth the most, and comments are in-between. When people share, the Facebook algorithm starts to pay attention, especially if the content keeps getting shared outside of your own network of followers. When it explodes at a massive rate, it's gone viral. "Viral" is tough and it's organic. It's not because someone asks to share it. The person shown the content was compelled to L/C/S on their own. Either content is "share-worthy" or it's not. And the algorithm is pretty good at picking up the stuff that's going to keep their users logged in and entertained - remember, it's all about serving the biggest number of ads possible.

"So that's it, Dave?", you say. "Easy as that?".
Nope. We need to talk about the dark side.

( Photo credit: )
So the algorithm knows what's good for its platform. But in order for it to identify what's good, it must also identify what's bad. What are those things that annoy users? How do we measure how bad something is before we put it on the feed? What are those posts that nobody likes, let alone comments or shares? WHO ARE THE USERS that post these things and how do we limit their content from the general population's news feeds?

Well, some of this, too, is pretty simple.

If users are shown something, they react. Not-liking something and doing nothing is a reaction, in case you hadn't thought about that. When a user sees something you've posted and they don't like it, the algorithm makes note of it. Not liking something is probably the least harmful reaction as it's really subjective as to whether it has appropriate potential to keep users entertained and engaged - it needs to show it to a few more random users to see how they react. But if a pattern develops, and the percentage of people who see it and skip it far outweighs the number of L/C/S, then the algorithm starts paying closer attention.

The more harmful reactions include things like:
- Turn Off Notifications For This Post
- Remove Tag
- UnFollow
- UnFriend
- Report the Post
- Block User

Obviously if you're doing the latter, it carries far more weight than just turning off the notifications, but make no mistake... "Turn Off Notifications" is penalizing your post's and your own Facebook credibility to an extent. If you tag 50 people and the majority turn off notifications, it means they don't want to be bothered with your post, even if they gave it a like. To the algorithm, it means that most people who get shown this post on their news feed don't care to see it or engage with it. In return, it limits the number of people who will see it and it will die a fairly quick death. This will be noted and entered into the database of your profile that keeps track of how historically "credible" you are. Random mass tagging, probably one of the biggest annoyances of Facebook, that results in the majority of people removing the tag throws up a bigger flag than just turning off notifications. When coupled with "not-liking" the post, removing a tag is a sure sign to the algorithm that the post is SPAM and has no business being shown to the general population of Facebook users. Add an UnFollow to this action, and you can seriously put a blemish on someone's profile credibility FAST. Once you've ruined your credibility, ANYTHING you post will be SEVERELY limited and shown to a VERY small handful of users. You'd better hope that small handful is loyal and Likes, Comments and Shares what you post. It's the only way to SLOWLY rebuild your credibility and increase the potential reach of your posts, going forward.

If you tag 50 people and only 20 give it a "Like", you've just taught the algorithm that what you post is not worthy of showing to many people and you WILL be penalized on future posts because of that.


Disclaimer: These ideas are just my own conclusion and interpretation as a result of research on the topic as well as my own personal experience with social media, web design/SEO, end-user experience and business models. I don't claim to have all the answers but hopefully what I share with you increases your own knowledge and further pursuit of these topics if they are of interest to you. - Dave

Sign up for my "Fore the Record" Newsletter and you'll have good industry Karma!

Leave a Reply