Competitive EdgeRank: The Delicate Ecosystem of Facebook’s News Feed

[The following is a guest post from Chad Wittman of EdgeRank Checker.]

Facebook EdgeRankI’ve been dedicated to analyzing Facebook’s news feed for almost three years now. I’ve been using and understanding the news feed since it’s launch when I was a Freshman in college.

A lot has changed, but one thing remains the same: complexity continues to arise within this finite space.

For brands, understanding this complexity and leveraging it to your advantage provides the greatest source of “free” opportunity. However, many brands don’t really understand how this ecosystem works, why it works the way it does and what to do about it.

I’m going to help break it down for brands with this post.

A Brand’s Competition

Brands don’t often directly compete in users’ news feeds with their standard competition. A brand like Nike isn’t competing with Reebok, Adidas and Puma in the news feed. Nike is going to be competing against brands that typical Nike fans tend to Like.

We analyzed Nike and found that it competes against Pages like Carmelo Anthony, Lady Gaga, New York Yankees and Mad Men. Understanding what these four Pages are doing (and not doing) can provide incredible insight into opportunity for Nike.

If Lady Gaga is releasing a new album and publishes a sneak peek on her Facebook Page, it should be monitored and avoided by news feed competitors to insure their next update has the best opportunity for success. It doesn’t matter if Reebok or Adidas just published content because their fans are less likely to overlap with Nike.

Why Care About Fan Overlap?

Facebook has another touch of opportunity by displaying topics that other Pages are “talking about.”

If Carmelo Anthony has a big performance (he also happens to be sponsored by Jordan, a Nike subsidiary) it would be in Nike’s best interest to publish content congratulating or highlighting the performance. Due to a high fan overlap, Nike could jump into the news feeds of Carmelo Anthony fans (as well as their fans) by talking about a topic they’re both interested in.

This provides free viral exposure if it acquires enough Shares to be relevant. A delicate and complex ecosystem enables this opportunity to occur if the marketer is paying attention to their brand’s actual “competition.”

Family & Friends’ Activity Patterns

To add to this complexity, a brand must compete with a fan’s family and friends’ activity patterns.

For some users, family and friends will have heavy post frequencies (typically younger users), while older users may have lower post frequencies. The times of day also fluctuate for different groupings. For a brand attempting to enter the news feed, this provides a moving target of complexity.

If a brand has a strong digital voice, it has the ability to jump into the news feed at will regardless of competition from family and friends’ patterns. For brands with weak digital voices, optimal results will occur by publishing in between opportunities.

Competitive EdgeRank

Sometimes brands’ posts don’t get as much exposure as expected. This is due to Competitive EdgeRank.

Every object that’s in the news feed has an EdgeRank value that is relative to the individual. Some days, the user may experience a flood of above average objects, which causes any average objects (especially from lower Affinity pages) to lose visibility.

We tend to see this in the summer on weekends of weddings with Facebook users experiencing a flood of family and friends’ wedding photographs and status updates.

Content Is King

With all of this being said, stellar content will be rewarded with exposure and success. However, understanding the intricacies of the news feed can help optimize for the more typical content your brand usually publishes.

As a brand, keep your eye on high quality content and keep in mind the ecosystem of the news feed to provide an additional advantage for your social strategy.

Do you focus on brand overlap? Which pages are your competition? Let us know your approach in the comments below!

Chad Wittman

About Chad Wittman
Chad Wittman is the founder of EdgeRank Checker. Previously a VP of Social at a local agency, he quit his job to dedicate himself to analyzing how EdgeRank impacts brands on Facebook.