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Facebook EdgeRank: The Best and Worst Thing to Ever Happen to Me

Intouch Team

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My name is Kyle Clawson and I love my job. I wake up excited to walk into the office, knowing my input is respected and my work makes a difference. Within my first few months as social media coordinator at Intouch, I was immersed in social pharma marketing. My client uses Facebook heavily; and, when the platform implemented major changes, I learned just how challenging and stressful social media in pharma could be. In the end, this is the story of how these recent Facebook changes made me better at my job.

How It All Began

On May 18, 2012, Facebook became a publicly traded company, and it was well-documented in the press that the IPO would force Facebook to look for new ways to monetize their assets. It wasn’t long before brands began experiencing changes in how their Facebook page content was displayed and who was seeing it. Almost overnight, blogger after blogger began posting that they’d noticed Facebook had decreased their page’s reach. And they were correct. Facebook had changed something. In May of 2012, the company began rolling out its new algorithm, EdgeRank. EdgeRank is how Facebook determines what content is displayed in a user’s News Feed, particularly in reference to content produced by brand pages.

I had only been on the job about six months, but my job had changed. Prior to the IPO, I was able to report results to my client that exceeded expectations. When the algorithm change affected the numbers, I wasn’t able to deliver the good news I was accustomed to.

After delivering yet another monthly report with lower statistics than usual, I became obsessed with EdgeRank. I found myself lying in bed searching for information late into the night. Every moment of free time at the office was spent mulling over Facebook performance data. Eventually, I came to notice a discrepancy in how our Facebook News Feed was treating certain types of posts (photos, videos, links, etc.). Certain post types were receiving beneficial treatment, where others were showing greatly reduced reach.

It became clear that Facebook’s new algorithm was negatively affecting the reach of all our clients’ pages.

What Came Out of It?

I looked at EdgeRank from every angle (there are now websites dedicated to EdgeRank and all of its complexities). And there were no evident trends that pointed to any necessary changes to our content. The only major change was that the amount of times our posts were served up in users’ News Feed had been dramatically decreased.

Unfortunately for social media professionals, there is no stated "value" metric on Facebook. Right or wrong, when delivering Facebook analytics, the metrics that stick out to brand managers are number of fans, or total impressions, both of which were affected by the algorithm change. So the question still remains: "How do I get back the numbers that EdgeRank has effectively changed?"

While there are some content adjustments page managers can make, you won’t be able to get back every metric you received pre-EdgeRank. Think about baseball: if the rules were changed and wood bats were replaced with aluminum, wood bat statistics could not be compared apples-to-apples with the new aluminum bat statistics. When the rules of a game change, expectations must be adjusted to the new reality.

This story may seem to come to a bleak conclusion; but, when Facebook became a public firm, they needed to prove to stockholders that they were a profit engine. Facebook has done this through their paid media offerings for brand pages. For every metric that EdgeRank affected, Facebook has released a paid media tool to aid the acquisition of that metric. For example, if your post reach is down, Facebook now has a paid media tactic to remedy that metric.

What Now?

There are a few takeaways for me. First, EdgeRank has changed the game, and the creation of valuable content has never been more important. No matter what Facebook changes, if your content is valuable and shareable, it will be seen. Although the new algorithm has negatively affected reach, a deeper dive into your content will provide insight on the adjustments that need to be made. I found that analyzing a year’s worth of posts was extremely valuable in finding ways to adjust our content.

Second, one must accept the new trend in Facebook marketing. When the company became public, they became subject to scrutiny from their stockholders—and monetization is top of mind. Facebook has begun to release a plethora of paid media options for brand pages to reach the over 1 billion active users of the social network. Any effect on reach can be counteracted with well-targeted Facebook paid media.

My final point is that neither content nor paid media is more important than the other. Moving forward, when you call yourself a social media marketing professional, you will need an understanding of content analysis AND paid media. And this trend isn’t confined to Facebook. Departmental lines in digital marketing are becoming blurred.

Yes, EdgeRank took over my life, and—yes—I was extremely stressed out, but I’m better for it. This process gave me insight to the deepest levels of content analysis and the implications it has for paid media.

I’m glad I work at a place that is ahead of the curve and is ready for the inevitable changes ahead.

Using Facebook for pharmaceutical communications is a popular topic on the Intouch blog. Read more Intouch tips, advice, and insights into using Facebook for pharma.

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