How Your News Feed Works

How Your News Feed Works

Carefully planned and posed selfies.

Political rants that are equal parts passionate and uninformed.

Videos of baby animals being rescued from dire circumstances.

To some degree, you can guess what you’re going to see every time you log in on Facebook. But how exactly are the stories that populate your News Feed determined?

With 1.3 million pieces of content uploaded to the platform every minute of every day, deciding what you see is a full-time job. To do it, Facebook employs a unique algorithm to calculate which stories you will enjoy most or find most relevant.

Imagine you’re Facebook, and you’re shopping for the perfect gift for your sister this holiday season. There is an abundance of options to choose from, so how do you pick the perfect gift? Similarly, there are millions of stories that could end up on your Facebook News Feed, but how does the algorithm narrow down what is relevant to you?

Step 1: Assess the Inventory Available

The first step would be to assess the options available – it’s not possible to buy your sister a pair of shoes that are out of your price range or in a color that isn’t made, for example. Facebook’s algorithm also must work in a confined space. By taking inventory of the content that’s been posted on your friends’ pages and the ones you follow, Facebook begins the process of determining what will rise to the top of your feed.

Step 2: Consider the Signals

So you know your sister is looking for shoes for Christmas, but that doesn’t get you very far. You now have to determine what type of footwear you’re looking for. Knowing she runs track and cross country, you can narrow down the stores you decide to check out. You’ll probably take timing into account, too. Since it’s winter, cross country is over, but spring track season is right around the corner. This could mean new running shoes have been released recently! You’re getting closer.

Once again, Facebook’s algorithm follows a similar process, considering hundreds of “signals” when deciding which content to show. What types of stories or statuses do you like or react to? What do you comment on? Have you reported any stories as spam or click bait? What time are you logging on? These signals allow Facebook to get to know you better and to understand what stories are important and relevant for you to see.

Step 3: Make a Prediction

The last step is making the final decision. You’ve determined your sister wears a size 7, she loves the color green, and there’s a great Black Friday sale on running shoes today. After considering the inventory available and the signals your sister has given you through hints about her preferences, you decide the half-off black and neon green track spikes are the perfect gift this Holiday season.

Similarly, once Facebook’s algorithm takes its cues from the signals you’ve supplied and makes note of the content available, it calculates and assigns each post a relevancy score. This score determines how interested you might be in a given post. The higher the relevancy score, the more likely that post will end up on your News Feed.

So there you have it. Much like shopping for the right Christmas gift, understanding Facebook’s News Feed algorithm is complex, but with a little research, you can conquer both in time for a happy holiday and a successful social campaign.

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