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1.4 Understanding the News Feed

What is the Facebook News Feed?


Your news feed is where you see all of the top news or recent activity from your friends, pages you like or sponsored ads.

How to control what you see in your news feed

You can ‘follow’ or ‘unfollow’ pages or posts from friends, groups or fan pages simply by clicking on the dropdown arrow next to the content.

For example, to unfollow a page click the drop-down arrow next to it where you’ll see the following options:


How to unfollow someone on Facebook

When unfollowing a friend you will see the following text in the dropdown arrow:


You can adjust your settings if you want to limit certain stories that you see in your news feed, or if you feel you’re missing out on particular types of content that you’d like to see more of.

How to hide a story or ad on Facebook

Click the dropdown arrow to the top-right of the story to select one of two options:

  • I don’t want to see this: if you want to hide individual stories.
  • Hide all: if you want to remove stories from your news feed that were posted by people, pages and groups you are not connected to.

This is a useful way of controlling the content that appears in your feed on an ongoing basis. Facebook also gives you the option of taking further action by reporting it or giving feedback on why you don’t want to see the story.

How to filter content using Lists:

With so many mixing work and pleasure on Facebook, people often prefer to put friends into certain categories when it comes to deciding what information they want to share with them.

You can do this by organizing people into certain lists depending on the things you are interested in, for example, or by work colleagues or family members.

Friend lists

Facebook gets you started by creating three list options (you can also come up with your own list titles):

  • Close friends: you’ll be notified each time they post and they’ll show up regularly in your news feed.
  • Acquaintances: these people will rarely show up in your news feed and you can also choose to exclude them from seeing certain posts.
  • Restricted: this group of people will still be added as a friend, but they will only see posts that you either make public or specifically tag them in.

Smart lists

Smart lists will automatically stay up-to-date based on profile information that you and your friends have in common, for example, what schools you went to or the place you live.

Interest lists

These work in a similar way to lists on Twitter, allowing you to build a list of all interesting content from Facebook. You can include Facebook Pages here without having to specifically like them, but you do need to login as yourself to create them. To do this, click the cog on the right-hand side of the page next to the ‘Message’ tab and select ‘Add to interest list’. You can make lists public, for friends or private.

You’ll then see some posts from that list in your news feed, which also appear in the interests section of your bookmarks. All you need to do is click on the list’s name to see recent posts and activity from the pages and people featured in that list.

Interest lists are useful because it means you can catch up on all the news and updates far more quickly by looking at only those pages in your news feed that best fit your interests. This is important in terms of optimizing the content that you view and keeping up-to-date with the latest developments with a brand, person or business without having to manually filter the content each time.

By allowing everybody to follow you, you can be featured on an interest list. This means that your updates will be included in the list’s feed. If you don’t allow everyone to follow you then your stories won’t show up for people who aren’t friends.


How to create your own interest lists on Facebook:

1. Create list

Go to your Interests page and click the ‘Add interests’ option, then click ‘Create List’.

2. Locate content for list

Search for the people or pages you want to add to your list – use the categories on the left to browse for options. Select the things you want to include on your list and click ‘Next’.

3. Set list preferences

Type a suitably descriptive name for your list into the ‘List Name:’ box. Next, select a privacy setting – public means that other people will be able to subscribe to the list you’ve created.


4. Share with friends

You can also decide to share your list with others – click ‘More’ after you go to the main interests section followed by ‘Share’ to do so.

Understanding your profile’s privacy settings on Facebook

If you’re posting an update from your personal profile you can choose what audience you want to see it. For example, you can set it to ‘Public’, which means that anyone can view it whether they’re your friend or not.

The ‘Friends’ option means that only your friends can see it. The custom option means that you can include or exclude specific lists, allowing you to write posts aimed at specific audiences only, or filter out specific groups of people from a post.

You could, for example, have created a list called ‘work colleagues’ – by selecting ‘Custom’ you could then write a personal post you choose to share with everyone except those on the ‘work colleagues’ list.

So you may have a list called ‘work colleagues’ – if you set it to custom you can choose to show it to all of your friends, bar your work colleagues (in the image above, it’s titled ‘private settings’ – you can title it as you wish).

You can also choose to let friends of people tagged view your post, or not.



Understanding Facebook News feed privacy settings

Facebook privacy can be confusing. Depending on the privacy settings of your friends, you can often see pictures and updates from people you aren’t actually friends with. At the same time, people you aren’t actually friends with may also see your posts in their news feed.

This will happen if you set all your posts to ‘public’, or you tag a friend in it and don’t untick the ‘Note: Anyone tagged can also see this post’ box as shown above.

Similarly, if someone you’re friends with likes or comments on a friend’s profile or a page which has its visibility set to public, you may see this in your news feed, and vice versa if you comment on a page or profile that has its visibility set to public.

Groups that their own privacy settings: Public, Closed or Secret. If you are commenting on a group that is closed or secret then only people who are members of that group can see your posts in their news feed. If you comment on a group that is public, then this may be shown in your friends’ news feeds.

Pages are public and any comment you make on them will be visible to anyone in your friend list.

Understanding Facebook Ad preferences

Take a look at your ad preferences to gain some control over how Facebook takes the information about you to decide what sort of ads to show you. By adjusting these settings you’ll see ads that are more relevant to you. Facebook does this by taking information from some of the websites and apps you use.



The process is known as ‘Interest-based advertising’ and started in the US first before being rolled out globally. You can opt out of Facebook using the websites and apps you use if you prefer by using the Digital Advertising Alliance opt-out service and using controls provided by your smartphone.

To adjust your settings, click the cross or dropdown arrow icon near the top-right of any ad on Facebook, then select ‘Why am I seeing this?’ From here you can add or remove yourself from audiences who are shown this ad. Select ‘Manage your ad preferences’ to see more audiences you’re a part of that have an impact on which ads you’ll be shown, such as sport or certain types of music.

Regardless of what preferences you select, Facebook will always use your age, gender, location and the devices you use to access it when it comes to deciding which ads to show you.


The Facebook News feed algorithm

The goal of the News feed is to show the right content to the right people at the right time. Facebook’s cleverer than you think; it isn’t just listing updates in the order they come in, and it won’t go out to everyone. It’s become an incredibly sophisticated tool as it’s evolved through the years, thanks to a special algorithm also known as EdgeRank. It’s very complicated and uses hundreds of factors to decide how to rank posts.

At the end of 2013 Facebook announced an algorithm change that had a huge impact on the way content is consumed online. The update to news feed ranking meant that the average referral traffic from Facebook to media sites almost tripled in the last year. According to Facebook, the typical user would receive approximately 1,500 stories per day from friends and pages if the news feed was unfiltered. Instead around 300 stories are prioritized.

Changes to the algorithm

Facebook’s changes to the filtering algorithm came following the results of a survey that would favor ‘high quality’ page content. Facebook looks at hundreds of factors to determine what is high or low quality, including how complete a profile is or how many likes it receives.

People want to see more relevant news and find out what their friends have to say about it. No longer is Facebook just about learning the news of your friends; it’s now a source of information to links, high quality articles events and shared interests.

You may also now see up to three related articles directly below the news feed that highlight other content that you could be interested in reading.

How facebook news feed algorithm works:

The algorithm works using three basic principles: Affinity, Weight and Decay. There’s a strong importance placed over how much interaction a post is getting and the general reaction to a post, whether it’s positive or negative. If you engage regularly with a friend or a page, it’s more likely that you’re going to see their posts moving forward.

Similarly, if you comment, like or share a certain type of post, it’s also more likely to be visible in your news feed. The news feed algorithm responds to signals from you, for example:

  • How often you interact with a friend, page or public figure.
  • The number of likes, shares and comments a post receives in general and from your friends.
  • How much you’ve interacted with this type of post in the past.
  • Whether or not you and other people across Facebook are hiding or reporting a particular post.

Trending topics

In September 2014 Facebook announced further changes to how it ranks its stories. The latest update looks at two new factors – trending topics and when people like or comment on a post – to determine if that story is more important at that particular moment than other types of updates.

This basically means that Facebook will show people stories about things that are trending as soon as they happen and look more at when people are choosing to like, comment and share. As long as you are producing great content that is relevant and resonates with your audience, then these changes shouldn’t affect your page.

If a post is getting lots of comments then this post will be bumped up to highlight stories with new comments – this is because once someone has already commented on it, it’s only natural that they will want to find out what other people are saying about it.

Facebook text updates

There have been several implications to marketers following the algorithm changes. One of these is the way that text updates from brands are devalued from the news feed. This means that text updates from users and brands are now split into different categories. Text updates from friends will get much more visibility than text updates from brands.

It forces marketers to look more at the content they produce, rather than the method of distribution and how they engage with their audience.

Why the news feed algorithm is important to your brand

According to Facebook, brands are people too. This means that Facebook now treats pages even more like people by putting posts in the user’s news feed in order to create a more natural way for brands and businesses to reach out and engage with their audience.

To ensure your page increases its chances of being seen (especially when it comes to organic reach), try the following:

  • Tag pages in posts where you may have similar audiences.
  • Find out what pages are mentioning you and identify pages that are already mentioning and interacting with your page. This will give you the opportunity to develop content that builds on these relationships.

How to track and measure your content

It’s important to look at similar brands – successful competitors or companies – and identify any trends with how they engage with their audience.

There are several free tools you can access to help you with this that will compare and analyze pages with a certain number of likes and we talk about analytics later on in the playbook – two examples include The Facebook Competitive Analysis Report, and The Facebook Page Insights Analysis. It’s important to analyze what sort of content, how much you post, what is paid or unpaid, and how it’s affecting your reach in order to drive change and extend your reach.

Another Facebook analytics tool that focuses on finding areas of your page that you can improve is the paid-for tool, PostAcumen. This looks at the best times and days to post, how frequently you should post and the best types of pictures to share.

The founder of PostAcumen also offers a free tool called ShareGrab that will provide you with an insight into up to five of your competitors. Here you can view a list of the top 50 best-performing pictures.

How many people are you reaching?

A critical part of your analytics is measuring your brand’s reach percentage.

Facebook reach can be split into four broad categories:

  1. Total reach: the total number of people you’ve reached, whether they are fans or not, paid and unpaid.
  2. Organic reach: the total number of people you’ve reached without advertising (fans and non-fans).
  3. Impressions: the number of times a post from your page is displayed, whether the post is clicked or not. Reach might be less than impressions, since one person can see multiple impressions.
  4. Paid versus organic reach: this is the process of comparing paid reach (the total number of unique people who were shown your post as a result of ads) and organic reach (the total number of unique people who were shown your post through unpaid ads or distribution, such as when posts go viral and are shared with friends of friends or the public).

Facebook announced recently that organic reach was going to drop further down in the news feed due to increased competition when it comes to quality content.

With pages organically reaching about 16% of their fans on average (according to Facebook), this means that users may miss content from friends or business pages if they are not logged on at the time posts are active in the news feed.

By posting engaging content using videos, photos, exclusive information and more, you’re more likely to increase the reach of your posts. You can also make sure your fans see your stories by sponsoring your posts giving you a straight choice between creating great content or paying to reach your fans.


How to improve your organic reach on Facebook

Ultimately everything on Facebook comes down to reach. Many people have already noticed the drop in organic reach following Facebook’s updates to its news feed algorithm.

It’s always a good idea to have some paid ads as part of your strategy because you will always want your reach to be higher, but there are plenty of other and strategies that you can follow to get people clicking, commenting and coming back for more.

Ideas to improve your reach on Facebook:

  1. Don’t always try to post content spontaneously: good planning will help you create engaging content that is fun and helpful. A good variety of different types of posts will help – using basic text status updates all the time won’t. Videos, a random question to your fans, a thought of the day or a business announcement such as a promotion or discount, will all impact on your brand awareness.
  2. Keep it casual and real: people want to see honest posts; an inside look at your business is always more interesting to your audience. Whether it’s a picture from a weekly competition you hold in your offices or a ‘day in the life’ of someone in a department.
  3. Don’t forget to get involved in a conversation: there’s no point asking something or posting a video and not responding to people’s comments. This is the simplest way to keep your post high up in the news feed.
  4. Understand the importance of sharing: did you know that Facebook recognizes shares as being from an individual and not a brand? Sharing is therefore the best way to get your content to rank higher in a news feed.

Remember that ‘like-baiting’, where you explicitly ask people to like, share or comment on a post, is now seen as spam by Facebook. Spam comments on your page will appear in grey.


What is Facebook news feed spam?

Facebook has been cracking down on news feed spam, but what is spam and how can you make sure that you don’t unwittingly spam people with your content? There are three forms of spam that are being monitored:

  • Spammy links: this is where stories use wording that makes you think you’re clicking through to a website, but instead you’ll just see ads or a combination of frequently circulated content and ads.

  • Like-baiting: ‘like-baiting’ occurs when a post like that shown above asks readers to ‘explicitly’ like, comment or share the post in order to get additional distribution beyond what the post would normally receive. Although people often respond to posts asking them to take an action, people say that these stories tend to be less relevant than other stories from people or pages that they really care about.
  • Frequently circulated content: there are times when people and pages will re-share great content time and time again. This means that this kind of repeated content is less relevant and will often lead to complaints or posts being hidden.

What is Like-gating on Facebook?

Facebook recently updated its Platform Policies to ban people from offering rewards such as apps or new content in return for liking a page – known as ‘like-gating’ or ‘fan-gating’. This occurs when someone uses landing-page tools such as Shortstack, Heyo or Tabsite to do one of the following:

  • Like a page to enter a competition.
  • Offer coupons or promo codes once someone has liked your page.
  • Get access to a video, PDF or eBook once someone has liked a page.


The aim is to ensure the likes you get for your brand come from genuine fans – those who actually care about your product or business – as opposed to people who simply want some free coupons. This means you may need to be more creative about how you encourage likes.

You’re allowed to offer prizes where people enter their email and in doing so to encourage people to like your page, but it shouldn’t require people to like or share in order for them to actually win the prize.

The new rules are now in effect, so what are the alternatives to like-gating? Here are some of the top ones to consider:

  • Facebook social plugins: use the Like Box social plugin after a blog post, which gives someone the opportunity to like your page (rather than feeling forced to).
  • Increase your email list: gather demographic information about your users to offer coupons or money off by asking for people’s email address or other demographic information. You can do this via your newsletter, which can include a link to your Facebook page so that they can easily like it or share it among their friends.
  • Run a Facebook Ad: this offers another way of targeting people to like your page, by setting up a Facebook Ad and selecting Facebook page likes as your objectives. You can also use Custom Audiences through your Facebook Ads Manager to grow your page likes and make your ads more efficient by finding relevant people.


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