The Retailer’s Guide to Facebook’s News Feed: How It Works and How to Make It Work for You


How can I get more people to see and like my Facebook posts?

Why aren’t my updates showing up in my fans’ News Feeds?

Chances are, if your retail store has a Facebook Page, you’ve pondered those questions at some point. After all, you’ve invested time and money to build a Page and get people to “like” it, and it can be quite a bummer to learn that your updates aren’t showing up in your fans’ News Feeds.

If you’re struggling with such issues, fret not. We’ve put together an in-depth guide on the News Feed, and we filled it with research- and Facebook-backed insights to help your Page gain more visibility and social love on the site.

Check them out below:


Figuring out Facebook’s News Feed algorithm

It’s no secret that Facebook uses algorithms to determine what it displays in each user’s News Feed. A few years ago, that algorithm was called EdgeRank and it was comprised of three main components, namely:



This refers to how close someone is to the creator of the story. It mainly factors in the relationship of that user with the source of the content (i.e. posts from your significant other would receive priority over updates from an acquaintance).

It also takes into account the previous interactions of the user with the content source. If someone frequently comments or likes the posts of a particular source, Facebook would keep showing updates from that user or Page.



This component factors in two things: the type of content (i.e. photos, video, links, text), and the action taken on a post.

When it comes to content types, Facebook puts more weight on photos and videos. Links come in second, followed by plain text. But this doesn’t mean that links or plain text updates don’t stand a chance against images. As mentioned earlier, Facebook also looks at the action taken on each post. If say, a plain text status update gets 20 comments and 40 likes, it would likely take priority over a photo with just 5 likes.


Time Decay

This takes into account how recent or current a post is. Stories lose value as they get older, so fresh updates and posts get priority over dated ones.


It’s important to note, however, that Facebook technically retired its EdgeRank algorithm a couple of years ago. And while the above-mentioned components still matter, the social network now factors in as many as 100,000 individual weights for the News Feed.

As Facebook told Marketing Land last year, “The three original EdgeRank elements — Affinity, Weight and Time Decay — are still factors in News Feed ranking, but ‘other things are equally important’”.

What exactly are the other components that make up the News Feed algorithm? Well, Facebook isn’t incredibly open about all its algorithm secrets, but based on research and announcements from the social network itself, we know that the following elements are factored into its News Feed rankings:


Time spent consuming content

In order to weed out low-quality content, the social network has started looking into how long people spend reading an article away from the site. “If people click on an article and spend time reading it, it suggests they clicked through to something valuable. If they click through to a link and then come straight back to Facebook, it suggests that they didn’t find something that they wanted,” Facebook said in its update.


Ratio of clicks to engagement

In addition to time spent reading articles, Facebook also takes into account the ratio of clicks to engagement. That is, if an update gets numerous clicks, but receives relatively few likes or comments, this could indicate that users clicked through to something that wasn’t valuable to them. Consequently, Facebook would show fewer of these types of stories.


Avoid “click-baiting.” Be upfront with your headlines and see to it that your post descriptions accurately describe what the link or content is really about. Your aim isn’t just to get people to click on a link; you want them to actually read and engage with the content.

Facebook surveyed its users on the types of content they’d like to appear in their News Feeds and found that “80% of the time people preferred headlines that helped them decide if they wanted to read the full article before they had to click through.”

Trending topics


Just last week, Facebook unveiled a News Feed update that would factor in trending topics. “One way we show timely content higher up in News Feed is to show people stories about things that are trending as soon as they occur, so you can immediately know what your friends or favorite Pages are saying about the stories of the day,” Facebook said in its newsroom post.

This means that when a friend or Page you are connected to posts about something that is currently a hot topic of conversation on Facebook, that post is more likely to appear higher up in News Feed, so you can see it sooner.


Timing of interactions

Facebook isn’t just looking at the number of interactions (i.e. likes, comments) that each post gets. It also factors in when these interactions occur. Posts that gain likes immediately, or shortly after they were published could get prime spots in the News Feed.

According to Facebook:

If people are engaging with the post right after it is posted, and not as much a few hours later, this suggests that the post was most interesting at the time it was posted, but potentially less interesting at a later date. Based on this signal it is more likely to appear higher in News Feed earlier on and lower at a later date.


Posts that are both timely and interesting (for your fans) could show up higher in their News Feeds, so see if you can incorporate trending (but relevant) topics into your posts.


Types of stories

As with its original EdgeRank algorithm, Facebook still plays favorites when it comes to the types of content it chooses to show in the News Feed. Text updates by business Pages, for example, don’t usually get prominent News Feed real estate.

“Admins can expect a decrease in the distribution of their text status updates, but they may see some increases in engagement and distribution for other story types,” Facebook noted in a post.


Articles vs. images

This is where it gets a little tricky. Late last year, Facebook said that it would be prioritizing links over meme photos, especially on mobile. “High quality articles you or others read may show up a bit more prominently in your News Feed, and meme photos may show up a bit less prominently,” it said in a newsroom post.

But recent studies have shown that photos still account for a majority of brand Facebook posts. Research cited by eMarketer has shown that photos account for 75% of posts by Facebook Pages worldwide. Photos are also the most shared type of content by users, grabbing a whopping 87% of total worldwide shares. Links, on the other hand, grabbed only 4%.


Time spent watching videos

Facebook has a specific way of determining which videos to show in people’s News Feeds. Aside from likes and comments, Facebook also looks at how long users watch the videos while on the site.

It also considers whether a user prefers video content. People who tend to watch more videos in their News Feed would likely see more of this type of content. So, if your fans watch a lot of videos, then Facebook could show your video content in their Feeds.


There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to what types of content show up in people’s News Feeds. It’s best to study your audience and determine the types of stories they want to see. Run tests, track results, and post more of what works.


The ultimate takeaway: Post likeable and comment-worthy content

As you can see, there are many, many factors that influence News Feed rankings. And while it certainly helps to be aware of these factors and optimize your posts accordingly, the most important thing you can do to improve the performance of your posts is to publish content worth sharing.

Because no matter how complicated Facebook’s algorithms get, the social network has one simple goal: Show the right content to the right people at the right time.

It does this not just by incorporating the factors mentioned above, but also by paying close attention to how people engage with each story.

As Brian Carter, bestselling author of The Like Economy and Facebook Marketing put it, “Facebook will show users the kinds of posts it thinks they’ll interact with, based on what they’ve interacted with in the past.”

So, if a person constantly clicks, likes, and comments on your posts, Facebook will keep showing them your updates. That’s why it’s essential that you figure out what resonates most with your audience and publish content in line with their interests, encouraging natural engagement.

“Use Facebook Audience Insights to find out who your fans and buyers are and what they like,” Carter advises.


He added, “As you post, keep track of the engagement rate for each post (percentage of people who interact with post divided by total reach of post); then, every month, look at your 10 most engaging and 10 least engaging posts. What do the most engaging ones have in common? Do more of that. What do the least engaging ones have in common? Stop doing that.”



Qualities of sharable posts

Carter, in collaboration with Marketo conducted a Facebook study called Contagious Content. They found that highly shared posts performed the following functions:

1. GIVE: Offers, discounts, deals or contests that everyone can benefit from, not just one sub-group of your friends
2. ADVISE: Tips, especially about problems that everyone encounters; for example, how to get a job or how to beat the flu
3. WARN: Warnings about dangers that could affect anyone
4. AMUSE: Funny pictures and quotes, as long as they’re not offensive to any group- sometimes the humor isn’t quite as strong or edgy–it has to appeal to a general audience
5. INSPIRE: Inspirational quotes
6. AMAZE: Amazing pictures or facts 
7. UNITE: A post that acts as a flag to carry and a way to brag to others about your membership in a group that’s doing pretty darned good, thank you very much.

(Check out the study here.)


Facebook tactics: Additional Dos and Don’ts

Here are a few more quick tips to help improve the performance of your posts:


DO complete your Facebook Page profile

Aside from helping your users learn more about your business, the social network also factors in how complete the Page profile is when determining content quality.


DO tag other (relevant) Pages

If you have retail friends or partners, and you share the same audience, consider tagging each other in your stories. Doing so can increase the visibility of your post. Facebook says “when a Page tags another Page, we may show the post to some of the people who like or follow the tagged Page.”

Take for instance, this Bleacher Report update that includes Dwight Howard. According to Facebook, in addition to displaying this update in the News Feeds of Bleacher Report fans, it might also show it to people who like or follow Dwight Howard, especially if the post gets engagement from users who like both Pages.


DO stay on top of News Feed updates

Facebook is always tweaking its algorithm, so it’s important to keep tabs on the social network. Bookmark the News Feed FYI section of Facebook’s newsroom so you can easily stay on top of updates.


DON’T embed links in photo captions

Facebook notes that it prioritizes “showing links in the link-format, and show fewer links shared in captions or status updates.”

Consider the examples below:


The one on the left is an update in link format, while the one on the right is a link shared as a photo caption. Facebook has found that link format updates get twice as many clicks as captions, which is why it puts more weight on this format.


DON’T explicitly tell people to like your posts

Facebook decreases the News Feed visibility of stories that are asking for likes, comments, or shares, so avoid like-baiting your fans into taking action.


DON’T treat tips like they’re set in stone

Social media is constantly evolving. The best practices of today may not be the same tomorrow. Additionally, since every Page is different, tips that may work for certain businesses may not produce the same results for others.

That’s why it’s important that you test out tips and tidbits for yourself. Get to know your audience, figure out what works best for your Page, then track and refine your strategy as you go.



Bottom line

There you have it! We hope you were able to pick up some valuable nuggets that you can test and put into action.

If you’re looking for more social media marketing advice, and you happen to be in the Toronto area this week, be sure to swing by Vend’s Retailers Meetup on September 25. We’ve invited some savvy social media experts to give retailers actionable advice on leveraging social media for your business.

Space is limited though, so please register for a spot in advance. Read this post to learn more or reserve your spot here.

See you there!


Image credit: FACEBOOK(LET) on Flickr

About Francesca Nicasio

Francesca Nicasio is Vend's Retail Expert and Content Strategist. She writes about trends, tips, and other cool things that enable retailers to increase sales, serve customers better, and be more awesome overall. She's also the author of Retail Survival of the Fittest, a free eBook to help retailers future-proof their stores. Connect with her on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Google+.