Why I keep showing up in your Facebook feed

On April 18, 2011, in Facebook, by Zaid Rasid

And it’s not what you think

First and foremost, I update my status a LOT on Facebook.  From  real life feedback from my friends there’s a group of people that like my updates and a group of people that don’t.  It’s something I’ve come to expect.  But when one of my friends and a close relative  pointed out that they kept seeing my status updates frequently it made me wonder why it was that I kept showing up in their feed?  Was it because I was posting a lot?  I looked on my own feed and realized that there were people who posted just as regularly as me.  I did a little digging and I came to find that the way you interact and the way people interact with you on Facebook, makes all the difference.

It’s an Algorithm called EdgeRank where affinity matters

What you might not know about your feed is that it’s a subset of the stories generated by your friends.  Considering a lot of us are on Facebook and a lot of us are updating our statuses, if Facebook were to continuously display all of those updates, we would be overwhelmed to say the least.  I mean, I have over 500 friends; so just imagine what that feed would look like.  This means that Facebook, the application, must use an algorithm to decide which updates are more prominent in a feed.  In fact, Facebook developers came out and announced the exact formula and called it EdgeRank.  You can learn about it here.

Michael Berstein, a researcher at MIT, sums it up best (copied from this blog):

I’ll cut through the math using words. Whenever somebody interacts with a news feed item, they create an edge to that item. So if I comment on a friend’s new puppy photos, I’ve created an edge to your photos. When trying whether  to show the photos in your news feed, Facebook looks at how closely you interact with everyone who has an edge to the item. So, with the puppy photos, it considers your affinity to the friend who created the photos, and then me because I commented on them.

This all comes down to — initialization matters. If my high school friends are the first to comment on a news feed item, the EdgeRank of that item for other high school friends is high. So, other high school friends will see the item. If grad school friends are the first to comment, then other grad school friends are likewise going to see it.


Big Man on Facebook

Now in addition to EdgeRank, Facebook is also very mysetrious about other factors that might influence a user’s significance.  And I’m sure this is going to sound snotty or arrogant, but by no means am I trying to say I’m more popular than your typical Facebook user.  But maybe I am? :)

A gentleman by the name of Tom Weber of the site The Daily beast, conducted a one month experiment in an attempt to crack the code to the ellusive Facebook algortithm.  Now although his study can not be scientifically proven, his observations are as follows.

  1. If you’re new on Facebook and have few friends, your updates will rarely show up on other people’s feed until you get more friends
  2. People need to interact with your updates for you to start getting noticed (EdgeRank)
  3. The quality of your updates is more important than quantity (more on this below)
  4. The ‘Top News Feed’ and ‘Most Recent News’ feeds do not include all of your updates from your friends, only selective ones
  5. Stalking (viewing photos, reading walls of other users) does not get you noticed by that user
  6. On the contrary, if people are repeatedly viewing your photos and clicking your links your influence increases
  7. Posting links to external content is favoured more over regular status updates.  That is: links trump status updates.
  8. Photos and videos trump links
  9. People commenting on your updates increases your visibility (EdgeRank)
  10. The popular kids don’t notice the unpopular kids.  That is, a user with 500-600 users or more is unlikely to see updates from someone with just a few friends (100-200).  Sadly this resembles real life high-school dynamics:)

You can read the post in its entirety here: Cracking the Facebook Code by Tom Weber

Not all feeds are created equal

So it finally started to make sense to me.  It turns out that the two people who mentioned that I updated my status the most were two people who are very close to me in real life.  So one could say that the algorithms are working. Considering I interact constantly with my close relative and vice versa, it’s no wonder she sees a lot of my updates.  As for my other friend, he’s part of my university network and comments all the time on my updates, which explains my prominence in his feed. Now I’m not denying that I update frequently but it is interesting to learn the reasons as to why I show up in a feed so regularly.

Start paying attention to your feed from now on and you’ll begin to notice that the same individuals seem to dominate your feed month over month.  Take a look at the type of content they’re posting.  Do they post a lot of links and photos and are a lot of people commenting on their updates?  And think about how close these people are to you in real life.  Are they part of your closest network, be it university or work?  Also, take a peak at the number of friends they have.  Does it turn out they have hundreds and hundred of friends?

Now if you don’t believe any of this, I’ll let you see for yourself.  Click on the ‘Most Recent‘ tab of your feed.  Now scroll all the way to the bottom and click on ‘Edit Options‘.  Next to ‘Show posts from‘ select ‘All of your friends and pages‘.   This will give you an unfiltered view of your feed.  Once you see how large your feed is you’ll come to realize that I’m not the only one updating my status;)

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2 Responses to Why I keep showing up in your Facebook feed

  1. Julie says:

    I have a FB friend that updates his status at least 5 times a day, posts photos, external links and comments frequently. No wonder why he shows up constantly on my news feed. I always thought they displayed the most recent 100 posts.

    Interesting blog Zye.

  2. Zaid Rasid says:

    5 times a day is not bad;) Thanks for the comment Julie!

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