Facebook’s EdgeRank has got people buzzing, mostly about what we all don’t know. If you want an excellent overview of Facebook’s EdgeRank go here, and let me sum up just a few of the basic points before diving into what this can really mean for you, your brand, and your success on Facebook by comparing it to what works, PageRank.
Now we are all just learning what EdgeRank means, because unlike Google’s revolutionary PageRank, based on a traditional scholarly methodology of measuring your validity by those referring to you (what we call links ;-), EdgeRank at first glance is more centered on you, the user, and tells less about what it does (on purpose of course, Facebook wants its secret sauce just like Google keeps its secrets).
Google is based more on the activity of search and the results it wants to show you to make that search relevant, a key difference that has influenced so many for so long, that perhaps theydon’t want to understand what Facebook is up to…
Facebook EdgeRank Overview: The Quick Notes Version
EdgeRank evaluates on 3 factors (so far revealed):
- Affinity: Measured by someone commenting, liking, viewing, or clicking on the content you post (seems like commenting is measured highest activity on the content rather than just liking it or viewing it which seems to rank lower). What that means to you is you must post content – with video and photos ranking higher than a mere link or status update. Here activity=affinity, what you do is what you like!
That makes sense in a visually driven medium like social media of course; the challenge here is that affinity seems to only be measured from you to the particular content, and your activity, sort of like a link but without an apparent way to judge the social validity of the link, unless user’s judgment is integrated.
Unlike Google’s authority sites, users are not authorities…or are they? The key here to remember that maybe 10-20% of users take action (and yes, I’m being generous here, it’s likely much lower), and those actions determine whether your content is seen in their stream. The lurkers? They view, and viewing is part of the equation.
- Weight: It’s obvious that video and photos create longer engagements than mere text, and Facebook wants you to stay, interact, and measures EdgeRank by length of time. Links and status updates are a quick scan, while videos and photos are known to get people much more interested and involved. If you are doing anything on Facebook, make it visual and video enhanced, not just for EdgeRank, but to get noticed.So it’s not just the content on Facebook, it’s the discussion/activity around that content. Unlike Google which is more content centric, EdgeRank looks for the user’s activity around the content, to deliver that content, via the corresponding Profile or Page, back to the user’s stream on a regular basis.Commenting takes more involvement than clicking a like button, for example. Viewing is likely less than a Like click, because there really isn’t an “action”. Read below for how to create a great discussion around your content.
- Time: Now you might think that asking a question about the latest news is a great way to start a discussion, which is true, but Facebook outsmarts that hack by the timeliness of the news being discussed. You better be on top of the news, because all news gets old after a day or two, except maybe the Charlie Sheen insanity romps or Bin Laden’s capture. Try to keep things timely and if you want to use newsworthy topics to generate involvement, which then spread to other users, make sure it’s relevant and near the peak of when people are buzzing about it.
Now all of this is pure conjecture in one sense, because none of us really know what Facebook is up to unless you are on the inside. Still there are some obvious things to learn for you, your brand, and your business.
PageRank is based on authority sites, delivering quality content and hopefully quality links. While that system can be played a bit, with the recent updates like Panda, many of the content farms that developed around manipulating PageRank fell by the wayside.
Still it is easier to understand the PageRank methodology, one site evaluated by the measurements of referring sites being an authority; with Facebook my best guess is that collectively, users’ activity will reach a certain threshold, indicating you are a superior source of activity for Facebook which generates ad impressions with activity around you, your brand, and/or your business content and discussions.
You create activity and Facebook likes you; you create a bunch of content that no one acts on, you don’t rise to the top. The toughest part as everyone knows in the distracting Facebook community is how to generate that activity in the first place, which is usually by interacting with other’s Profiles and Pages, and having something interesting on yours.
Small wonder most businesses and brands are confused doing this, being trained by the search overlord Google to simply create interesting, relevant content that people visit, creating clicks for Google. Facebook needs more than one click, it wants multiple clicks that virally spread, bringing in more users, and hopefully more clicks, and more page impressions.
While Google’s legendary search model is designed to send you to the destination you seek for the problem you want to solve, Facebook’s approach seems to be based on giving you more content you interact with, which then can be shown to your friends by referral, getting them to visit and interact. It’s much more about creating activity than solving a problem, which is why so many businesses are lost on Facebook because they are used to serving Google.
There’s a new boss in town, actually same as the old boss, but with a different set of rules. You can’t do things the old way and expect it to work, because social media is not about solving problems, it’s about starting discussions.
The Key is to Start a Discussion on Facebook And Filling Your Room
Starting a discussion around your content, questions, surveys, viral campaigns, whatever you are doing, means you’ve got to understand how to add value, spark ideas and involvement, and get those few who are involved to pass it on.
With Google’s PageRank, it’s all about Problem/Solution; solve a problem with your content, get enough authority links (and other criteria of course) to validate your solution, and Google loves you. This is why so much of online ad spending is based on direct marketing, clicks and conversions, which is going to change with the growth of social media.
Facebook’s EdgeRank, in my opinion is about planting seeds with your content, steady streams of content that are measured not by clicks and conversions, but by clicks and referrals, the virality of your Profile and Page to engage people to stay and create more impressions.
Anyone who is testing business on Facebook will tell you that it’s all the visuals, in fact the visual is considered more important than the headline in Facebook ads! I’ve seen experts claim 70% of the reason someone clicks an ad is the visual, totally different than the text dominated world of search.
You’ve got to paint a picture, share a video, and incite the reaction; the one that apparently matters most is the comment – text based – followed by clicking on your content, likes, and simply viewing. Understanding that most people watch while a few people act in social media, let me make an initial stab at some best practices to optimize your business experience of Facebook:
- Video and Visuals are key to opening the door, just remember the Headline is what makes them act. Headlines are sooo important, need to stand out and not be a marketing headline, and must take a stand! If you have an opinion, or want to spark discussion, it’s all about Pros and Cons, Right and Wrong, your view versus my view.
- This scares many brands, who want to be perfect. Try instead to be imperfect, believable, geniune, and watch the news trends. People react to what is timely, given in a context that sparks their engagement – spurred on by an intriguing headline that makes them want to click (not to buy, instead to visit and get involved.)
- Instead of asking what do you think, make sure you ask, how do this make you feel? The key to spreading content is getting an emotional reaction, and involvement, from your audience. Just make sure that the discussion has some relevance to your business here and there – currently I see a 60 percent content only, 40 percent content related to commerce being the right approach, with links taking them outside of Facebook for the transaction or engagement with the business.
- Measure how many people visit your links regularly so you can see if you are successful getting them out of Facebook. Commerce happens in your backyard, in your business or site, and not as often on Facebook. What can you do to get them to leave? Just be sure you get the right mix, because experiments for those seeing Facebook as another source of traffic fail, from EdgeRank’s perspective and the user, because it’s not about you, it’s about Facebook’s world! Be sure to gently nudge users over to your kingdom.
- You are the brand. On Facebook, everyone is a brand, from personal to corporate, and the key is being remembered. Just make sure you tie in that memory to some commercial activity outside of Facebook if you want to get ROI. Just think of it as two step marketing, as I teach in my Brevenue chapter in my upcoming book. Branding tied into revenue is just 2 step marketing adapted to social media, with less selling up front, and more about getting people involved in your content so they come back again and again.
- Put a little Tagging in your headlines. While this isn’t Google’s world of keywords, relevant tags related to your headline help create activity. Tags are like keywords, except tags spark interest, while keywords solve problems. Be sure you understand this subtle difference.
- Remember referrals; it’s not about the first visitors, the most active or the reviewers/curators who provide social proof and invite others, it’s about the people they invite. That is the holy grail of social media, not the first contact. First people in often have too much time, are too critical, and don’t necessarily have money. Create a discussion and the people they invite see you matter – talk about yourself or don’t build discussion and interaction into the content you are providing, and you get silence from the first wave, and they likely won’t invite people anyway.
- EdgeRank’s real goal is branding dollars. This is the missing link of the digital business world and one most traditional marketers miss and dismiss. Branding dollars dwarf direct marketing in overall spending, which is why most major corporations consider the Internet as good for certain retail items, saving money, and coupons, but a drop in the bucket overall. Brands build on a rewarding experience, not just virtual currency but adding value to each interaction.
- Branding dollars derive from being remembered, promoting consideration of a product or service, and engaging people in activities around the brand, which hopefully creates long term involvement. My tests on branding over a period of time with periodic calls to action driving traffic, is more focused on getting referrals. Smart brands know that repeat visits and activity build loyalty and remembrance. It is all about being remembered.
That’s my initial take on Facebook’s EdgeRank, with admittedly much conjecture – just like Google’s PageRank used to create in its early days. I just want to make sure you consider some of these topics, and tell me which ones are nuts, which fit, and more importantly, what have you found that makes you take action on Facebook?
And if it’s all really just Farmville games in the end, no worries, for now let’s keep focused on Profiles and Pages. How are you getting the edge on EdgeRank?