Posted: March 3rd, 2013 | Author: Patrick Thornton | Filed under: Main | Tags: Edgerank, Facebook, Nick Bilton, The New York Times | No Comments »
Nick Bilton on the curious case of sharing on Facebook:
Every Sunday morning, I started sharing my weekly column with this newfound entourage. Those garnered a good response. For example, a column about my 2012 New Year’s resolution to take a break from electronics gathered 535 “likes” and 53 “reshares.” Another, about Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s founder and chief executive, owing me $50 after the company’s public offering, quickly drew 323 likes and 88 reshares.
Since then, my subscribers have grown to number 400,000. Yet now, when I share my column, something different happens. Guess how many people like and reshare the links I post?
If your answer was more than two digits long, you’re wrong.
As a social media manager and researcher and as someone who spends thousands a year on Facebook ads for work, I can confirm that Facebook’s sharing algorithm changes a lot, has been all over the place the past year or so and that paying for ads — even small amounts like $10 — makes a huge difference in engagement and reach. The amounts of engagement that Bilton is seeing normally sounds low, however, and perhaps that is due to his content and not just the algorithm.
You don’t need to study social media to see that pictures, images and memes are what rules Facebook these days. This was not always the case, but in the last few years, sharing links has not gotten the same penetration as sharing photos and other visual content.
I believe this is for two reasons: Facebook’s Edgerank algorithm prioritizes visual content over written, and users prefer visual content or at least are more likely to notice it, click on it, like it and share it. Bilton’s own Facebook page bears this out. He shared a photo of himself with his dog at In-N-Out Burger that received about 30 times the engagement as a recent New York Times story of his. While we can all agree that Bilton’s writing is usually better content than him and his dog eating a cheap burger, Facebook friends and users feel differently, and Facebook’s algorithm prefers his smartphone photos to researched journalism pieces.
We have responded to this changing situation on Facebook by making a push to share more visual content on our Science News Magazine’s Facebook page. We will often share a great photo, image or illustration from a story and then provide a link to it in the caption on Facebook. This does significantly better than just sharing the story alone.
Facebook is always changing its algorithm, and as it currently stands, unless you pay money to sponsor an update that links to a story, you may not be getting great engagement or traffic out of it. The other issue I see with Bilton’s feed is that he doesn’t post that often. Posting daily on Facebook leads to more engagement per post. There is an upper limit to how often you should post to your Facebook page — roughly once every three hours — but Bilton is nowhere near hitting that limit.
Now, as to the paid vs. organic engagement, well that is an issue. This gets to the heart of Facebook versus Twitter. On Twitter, you are normally shown every single tweet from the people you follow in your timeline. On Facebook, you are normally shown only the content that the Facebook algorithm deems the top content in your feed.
The algorithm works as a positive feedback loop. The more often you interact with someone’s content, the more often you see that person’s content and then the more often you will see it again in the future. This has resulted in people seeing updates from a small selection of the people they are friends with on Facebook, and is something that bugs me as I find it too limiting. Facebook users can switch their news feeds to show most recent content instead, similar to a Twitter feed, but this is not the default and few people change this.
I can’t confirm this, but I feel that Facebook switches back this preference for users, as mine always seem to end up back on top stories. In Facebook’s mind, top stories is a great way to show content from strong ties — family and close friends — while drowning out of the noise of some of your weaker ties. I don’t have an issue with prioritizing strong tie content over weak tie content, but I have not liked the mix on Facebook and believe it needs to sprinkle in more random content from my weak tie Facebook friends and pages.
Unfortunately, Facebook followers of journalists is the definition of a very weak tie (it’s not even a two-way tie like a normal Facebook friendship). As long as Facebook shows the top stories algorithm instead of just most recent content like Twitter, people like Bilton are going to continue to see lower engagement than expected.
So, why does paying help this situation? Paying to make sure your content is shown to your followers and friends means that your content will be shown in someone’s news feed even if they have selected top stories and the algorithm would deem you too weak of a tie to show right now. What this is saying to Bilton is that his page is not deemed a top story driver for most of his followers.
Maybe Bilton’s followers would disagree with this and maybe they would prefer a stronger mix of content in their news feeds. I have found my news feed being dominated by a few friends and family with recent changes to the top stories algorithm. The positive feedback loop seems to have run out of control.
I believe that if Bilton started sharing more content and more varied content, with an emphasis on visual content, he would see more engagement per item, even his links to stories. That said, the Facebook algorithm seems to have issues showing variety by focusing too heavily on strong tie content, and I think this hurts journalists and other content creators. I don’t necessarily think this is anything nefarious by Facebook in an attempt to grab cash by encouraging people to pay for ads, and I do agree with the Facebook engineer that he quoted that this is not a good thing for Facebook.
If people want to see Bilton’s content, and they aren’t, that’s not good for anyone.
Posted: October 24th, 2012 | Author: Patrick Thornton | Filed under: Notes | Tags: Facebook, News.me, Twitter | No Comments »
This is a bummer:
News.me, the social news service built on top of Twitter (and Facebook), todayannounced it is killing its curation apps for iPhone and iPad. The company is blaming Twitter for the move and says it wants to focus on its Digg efforts instead.
They claim this will not impact News.me’s great daily emails, but who knows how much data you’ll be able to get out of Twitter moving forward. News.me is the first thing I check in the morning to see what’s going on in my world. It always highlights interesting stories by seeing what my Twitter and Facebook friends are up to. I don’t use Digg and don’t plan to any time soon.
Posted: October 21st, 2012 | Author: Patrick Thornton | Filed under: Notes | Tags: Facebook, social media, TVs, Twitter, Xbox 360 | No Comments »
Well I’m shocked that people don’t want to tweet from their XBOX 360s:
Eagle-eyed gamers may have already noticed that the Xbox 360′s dedicated Twitter and Facebook apps have gone missing after the latest Dashboard update, and now Redmond has confirmed it’s put the applications out to pasture. According to a Microsoft representative that spoke to IGN, the firm is “retiring the Facebook and Twitter apps” as it works to streamline functionality. When asked if the pair of apps will ever make a comeback, Ballmer and Co. didn’t comment.
Updates from Tvs was a fad the last few years, and thankfully it’s going away. Why would someone want to check or update a social network from a TV? The XBOX 360 doesn’t even come with a keyboard, so I’m not exactly sure how this was supposed to ever work. All the data actually points to people using mobile devices to access social networks while they use their TVs. That makes sense.
Posted: May 31st, 2012 | Author: Patrick Thornton | Filed under: Main | Tags: Facebook, Pew, Twitter | 1 Comment »
Pew has a new report on the state of Twitter that shows that the rate of adoption and usage of Twitter is remaining fairly steady. The real story, however, might be that Twitter finds itself popular with educated and wealthy people and people at the other end of the spectrum, but not in between.
Some key findings:
- 15% of online adults use Twitter. A year ago that number was at 13%.
- On a daily basis about 8% of online adults use Twitter.
- Black American use Twitter at the highest rate with 28% of online black Internet users using the service. Compare that with 12% of online white Internet users.
- Young people like Twitter more than older adults. 26% of internet users ages 18-29 use Twitter, nearly double the rate for those ages 30-49. And 31% of Internet users between 18-24 use Twitter.
- The service is popular with poorer and wealthier citizens. 19% percent of Internet users with a household income below $30,000 use Twitter and 17% with a household income above $75,000 use Twitter. The people in between use it the least.
- The same trend holds true with education. Those with no high school diploma use the service the most at 22% and on the other hand those with at least a college degree use it at 17%. Again, in between the numbers drop off.
Twitter is a big site, but it’s clearly not a tool that the majority of Americans use. Half of adults and three-fourths of teenagers use social networking, with Facebook as by far the dominate site.
Twitter is the darling social network of journalists and cultural elites, but Facebook is where the majority of Americans are hanging out.
Posted: April 11th, 2012 | Author: Patrick Thornton | Filed under: Podcasts | Tags: Apple, auto updates, cars, computers, Facebook, Flashback, Instagram, Java, Mercedes Benz, OS X | No Comments »
We discuss the purchase of Instagram by Facebook.
Jeremy is concerned. I’m taking a wait and see approach.
Then we have a big discussion about computers and computing systems automatically installing updates and patches for users. Most users don’t keep their computers and computing systems up to date. So doesn’t it make sense that more computers and computing systems are auto updating? Won’t this lead to less malware and a better user experience?
But what happens if that computing system being updated is within the car you’re driving?
It’s a serious usability discussion. Both sides have drawbacks and benefits. Perhaps the answer comes down to the user and the use case.
Listen to this week’s show:
Download the MP3
Posted: April 4th, 2012 | Author: Patrick Thornton | Filed under: Podcasts | Tags: April Fools, Facebook, iPad, Jakob Nielsen, Passwordgate, Penn State, Retina Display, usability | No Comments »
We discuss the growing controversy over employers asking employees for their Facebook login information.
Would you give a perspective employer your username and password to Facebook if it were the only way you could get that job?
Usability expert Jakob Nielsen believes that the new iPad with its high resolution display is a usability game changer. Specifically, it makes you want to use it more. This is the future of computing displays.
Also, is faking a students death an appropriate April Fool’s Day joke?
Listen to this week’s episode:
Download the MP3
Posted: January 10th, 2012 | Author: Patrick Thornton | Filed under: Notes | Tags: Facebook, Google, search, Twitter | No Comments »
Google announced Google+ integration into Google search today, which will bring users more personalized results based on friends’ usage of Google+. The social integration, however, will only be for Google’s in-house social network Google+. MG Siegler believes the feds and rival social networks won’t stand idle:
This is the type of case that Senators die for. Google wrapped it in a bow and placed it in one of their laps.
Most of the broader antitrust concerns against Google are bullshit in my opinion. You can argue that they have a monopoly on search, but it’s a natural one. They’ve earned it. They’re simply better at search than their competitors. This has always been true. It remains true.
But when they use that natural monopoly to start pushing into other verticals, things get gray. Travel, restaurant reviews, etc, etc. We see more of it each year.
But this, at first glance, seems decidedly worse. Google is using Search to propel their social network.
Posted: December 21st, 2011 | Author: Patrick Thornton | Filed under: Notes | Tags: ads, Facebook, news feed | 1 Comment »
The ads should be a lot less intrusive than most ads, particularly uber-intrusive-and-annoying newspaper ads. TechCrunch notes:
The ads will be marked “Sponsored” and a rate limit will ensure users see no more than 1 Sponsored Story in the news feed per day. They’ll only feature stories about friends or Pages that users already like. Users won’t be able to opt out of seeing Sponsored Stories in the news feed or having their activity used in them, but they will be able to ‘x’ out individual ads. The ads won’t immediately appear in the mobile news feed, though Facebook is considering the idea as we discussed earlier this month.
Some people are already upset about this, but would you rather pay to have an ad-less Facebook or have some ads thrown in?
My guess is that the ads will be fairly targeted and most users won’t care. They may even show how Web ads can be done well.
Posted: December 5th, 2011 | Author: Patrick Thornton | Filed under: Notes | Tags: Facebook, LinkedIn, media executives, social media, Twitter | No Comments »
These are the kinds of responses you would get from someone who doesn’t understand social media at all:
Maurice Levy, chief executive of advertising group Publicis, said Twitter and its social networking sister Facebook were simply not for him.
“I hate the idea that I would have to share things which are not for sharing or which are superficial,” he said in Paris.
Remember when all we heard about Twitter was that, “I don’t care what people are eating for lunch.” Well, the only thing people are eating for lunch is your old media business.