TANSTAAFL and other Facebook EdgeRank tales

The acronym for “There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch . . .” rings true for a reason. Because there ain’t.

What about the idea that companies would have the opportunity to engage their consumers directly, and at no cost?

Consider: Facebook provides brands the opportunity to post to a fan page. That post is presented directly to fans in their News Feed. A direct marketer’s dream. Almost sounds like a free lunch.

But . . .

Facebook employs a well-discussed, and still mysterious, technology called EdgeRank. Find a good description by “Inside Facebook” here. The key part is:

EdgeRank is the algorithm that determines what items populate your News Feed. With all the friends people have and pages they like, most users would be overwhelmed to see all of the activity generated by these connections. Facebook, therefore, assigns a value to every possible story that could end up in the feed. This value is based on affinity, weight and time.

I added the emphasis on the only inputs into EdgeRank: Affinity; Weight; and Time.

Affinity is an attempt to quantify the importance of the content to each individual fan; weight recognizes that some types of content are more engaging (presumably rich links or photos are more attractive than text) and should be ranked higher; and time is . . . time.

So, it seems that Facebook will tend to deliver brand content . . .

  • To enthusiastic fans, even if the content appears a bit dull and some time has elapsed;
  • To all fans if the content is exciting and new;

but, once content is posted, every minute that goes by works against a brand’s effort to accommodate EdgeRank’s filter.

Even more troubling, we need to face up to the fact that not all fans are rabid brand ambassadors. And, not all content posted makes hearts race. So, time works against us even more.

Can we fight back? Yes. But, TANSTAAFL!

We believe Facebook’s Sponsored Stories are a great answer. And, while not free, these ads can be little dynamos! Think of Sponsored Stories as your best weapon against the time bomb ticking away inside EdgeRank.


– Jon Victor, CEO Engage121


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