Demystifying the Facebook algorithm: A guide to reaching your audience

In the span of an internet minute, the content your organization shares online competes for the attention of millions of users—and for the assistance of the Facebook algorithm.

To provide an individual experience to each of its users, Facebook employs a complex algorithm, formerly known as EdgeRank, that ensures the content displayed in your news feed is interesting to you, specifically. Facebook wants to put engaging and entertaining content in your timeline. The company’s goal? To increase the time you spend on its website—and to up its share of the internet minute. While the algorithm and the tactics Facebook uses may change, that fundamental motivation is here to stay.

For companies and organizations, this means that simply posting content cannot guarantee reach. Having 5,000 likes on your page does not mean those 5,000 people are regularly seeing your posts in their News Feeds.

While the intricacies of the algorithm remain a mystery to those outside Facebook, we know the algorithm at its most simple follows three main tenets—affinity, weight, and time decay. Affinity determines how relevant certain content is to you based on your previous activity, while weight and time decay prioritize posts based on post type (photos, videos, text posts) and relevancy (how old is your content?).

So, how do you compete for space on the news feeds of your audience? Following the algorithm, it is essential to generate original content that is relevant to the people who like your page. It must be easy to absorb, encourage user engagement through likes, shares and comments, and should be timely. For example, natively uploaded videos (which keep users on Facebook rather than redirecting them to other sites like YouTube) are much more likely to show up on your audience news feeds, as are photos that encourage user engagement and discussion in the comments section.

Engaging with hot-button issues, current news in your industry, or local trends are all ways to increase your exposure on the site.

If the message and content you send through Facebook is not going to be important or interesting in the eyes of your audience, you cannot expect reach or engagement.