Will Facebook’s new News Feed algorithm proliferate the sheep-engagement effect?

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  • August 22, 2013
Fi Dunphy

Fi Dunphy

Content and Social Strategist

Facebook will soon be changing what we see in our News Feeds from our networks.

The current News Feed algorithm takes into account what kind of content we are engaging with, how old it is, how we’re engaging with it (i.e. click, share, like, comment etc.), and what relationship we have to those we’re engaging with.

The new algorithm, on the other hand, is going to show the most popular content at the top of the Feed – that is, the content that incites the most clicks, likes, comments and shares.

The one problem I’ve considered with the old News Feed algorithm is that there may well be people and brands whose content and status updates I’d probably enjoy, but because I never engage with them, I’m very unlikely to see anything from them … Thus, we have a vicious circle.

With the new algorithm, however, users are more likely to see content from people in their network who they hadn’t engaged with – if it’s deemed popular by others, regardless of our relationship to or engagement with the poster. This is known as ‘story bumping’.

Facebook sheep engagement

For marketers and brands, story bumping will mean that it’s now even more important that they consider what content they’re posting, in that it should be even more engagement-driving than ever – the more engagement posts get, the longer posts will stay at the top of users’ Feeds, and the more impressions they’ll acquire.

Marketers and brands may also have more options when it comes to how they advertise with Facebook.

However – I read an article earlier this month called The Science of Reddit: Why Some Ideas Dominate the Net, which outlined the study conducted by MIT’s Sinan Aral, which examined how stories become popular on news aggregator sites like Reddit.

Aral found that he could experimentally boost the popularity of articles 32 per cent by posting them with an initial few likes. Basically, we’re all a bit sheep-like, and we tend to engage with content that we can see is popular.

So does this mean that content from bigger brands with larger audiences and already-high engagement is going to get an unfair advantage over content from smaller brands with smaller audiences?

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