Facebook reveals and updates how News Feeds are ranked

Social network unveils new feature that will push popular stories back to the top of the Feed

Technology trends and news by Steven Loeb
August 6, 2013
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Ah, the Facebook News Feed. So many of us use it every single day, and yet so few of us actually seem to understand how it works, or how exactly Facebook chooses what stories will go on the top. 

I personally put my Feed in chronological order, but for those who let Facebook choose what they see, there is a high probablility that there would be posts that might be interesting or useful that they will have missed. And then it becomes nearly impossible to find them again, as more and more posts piles on top of them.

That is why Facebook has announced that will make it easier for users to find those stories that escaped them the first time around.

"Now organic stories that people did not scroll down far enough to see can reappear near the top of News Feed if the stories are still getting lots of likes and comments," said Facebook engineer Lars Backstrom.

Facebook is already pointing to data that "shows this improves the experience of News Feed."

After testing the feature with users, the number of likes, comments and shares on the stories that people saw from friends increased by 5%, and 8% for likes, comments and shares on the  stories they saw from Pages. It also lead to an increase in the percentage of stories that people read on their News Feed, from 57% to 70%.

On average there are 1,500 stories every time someone visits their News Feed, from their friends, people they follow and Pages.

So Facebook attempts to rank them "by letting people decide who and what to connect with, and by listening to feedback." The News Feed algorithm responds to signals from users, including how often you interact with a specific person, how many likes or comments a post gets, and whether or not the the post is hidden or has been reported. 

"The goal of News Feed is to deliver the right content to the right people at the right time so they don’t miss the stories that are important to them. Ideally, we want News Feed to show all the posts people want to see in the order they want to read them,"  said Backstrom.

But the algorythm is far from perfect, and this new features attempts to correct one major flaw.

The other big reason to introduct this feature: while it will help users get their posts seen by more people, more importantely, it will also allow Facebook's brand partners to get their Pages seen more as well. And that will ultimately, Facebook has to be hoping, lead to more ad revenue.

New Feed blog

In addition to new feature, Facebook made another announcement: the social network will, starting Tuesday, be publishing blog updates that specificially have to do with changes to the News Feed.

"We are continually working to improve News Feed and from time to time we make updates to the algorithm that determines which stories appear first. We’ve heard from our users and Page owners that we need to do a better job of communicating these updates," Backstrom wrote. 

"News Feed FYI blog posts, beginning with this one, will highlight major updates to News Feed and explain the thinking behind them."

Facebook previously unveilved a major update to the News Feed in March with a new look and new tabs that included All Friends, Photos, Music and Following. The new feed was also made to have the same look across mobile, tablet and Web.

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