An algorithm worth paying attention to

Tips to Increase Your Facebook EdgeRank and Exposure

Published April 28, 2011

social media how toEver wonder why you can have 548 friends on Facebook, yet only 15-20 show up in your news feed? It’s not that those other friends have stopped using Facebook; chances are they’re still there. It’s just that they aren’t showing up in your news feed.

If you haven’t noticed, there are now two settings on your Facebook news feed: “Most Recent,” which shows most of the content published by your Facebook friends in chronological order and “Top News,” which filters content based on EdgeRank.

Friends and fan pages with a high EdgeRank are more likely to show in your “Top News” stream. Users with a low EdgeRank may not even show in your “Most Recent” news feed.

For businesses or others looking to market, promote or just interact through Facebook, the implications of this change are huge. “Top News” is the default setting, so unless a friend or fan changes their default, it’s quite possible that they will never see your updates. No matter how good the content, no matter how well you manage your Facebook page, EdgeRank might be holding you back.

EdgeRank Defined

Facebook looks at everything published as “objects.” These can be status updates, links, photos, video or anything else that can be shared on Facebook. Every object receives a ranking (EdgeRank), which determines if it will show in your personal newsfeed. Objects with a high EdgeRank appear in your “Top News” feed. Objects with a low EdgeRank will not. According to a study conducted last fall by The Daily Beast, objects with a really low EdgeRank may not even show in your “Most Recent” news feed.

An object’s EdgeRank is based on three factors: affinity or the relationship between the creator and user, interaction with the object (likes, comments, etc.) and timeliness. Add the three factors together using a formula that only Facebook truly knows and you’ve got an object’s EdgeRank.

Unlike Google’s PageRank, which stays the same from user to user, every object is scored based on the individual Facebook user who may (or may not) view the object in their news feed.

Let’s take a closer look at the three factors that determine EdgeRank.


An object’s affinity score is based on the interactions you have with the friend or fan who published the object. Friends or fans with whom you regularly interact receive a higher affinity score. Each time you visit a fan page, click the “Like” button, comment on a user’s status or look at a picture, you increase the affinity score with that user.

As The Daily Beast study points out, this affinity score only works one way. I can’t increase my affinity score in another user’s feed by constantly clicking on their “Like” buttons or looking at their pictures. Although doing so will increase the likelihood that you’ll see their updates, your objects won’t do better in their news feed until they return the favor.

Level of Interaction

Different types of interactions are weighted differently on Facebook. Activities that require higher levels of user engagement get a higher score than those that don’t. For example, leaving a comment on a photo takes more effort on the user’s part than clicking the “Like” button. Objects that receive higher levels of interaction are more likely to show in a user’s newsfeed.


Most people don’t want to read yesterday’s news. Newer objects have a better chance of showing up in your news feed than older ones.

Armed with an understanding of these three elements, here are six tips on how you can increase the likelihood that your content or objects will appear in your friends’ or fans’ “Top News” feed.

#1: Publish Objects That Encourage Interaction

Unless they’re interesting enough to draw comments, simple status updates aren’t going to move you into Top News feeds. Publish content that naturally encourages click-throughs or creates discussion. Objects such as creative games that require a response (i.e., trivia or caption contests) open up opportunities to add highly weighted interaction and build affinity with new users.

top news feedTop News is Facebook’s default setting. Top News only shows objects with a higher EdgeRank.

#2: Create a Forum

Ever notice how political content on Facebook can generate a ton of comments? Although it doesn’t take long to realize that Facebook and politics don’t mix, people love to debate and discuss hot issues. Make your fan page a place for constructive discussion on the latest industry topics. Although this approach takes careful management, objects from a fan page filled with healthy discussion are more likely to receive a higher EdgeRank.

surveyObjects such as surveys require user interaction which can build EdgeRank.

#3: Make the Most of Photos and Videos

Photos and videos show up in the Facebook news feed as thumbnail images. Due to their size, they almost require interaction as users click on them to make them large enough to see. Be sure to add a comment that encourages users to open the photo and add comments of their own.

videoBy their very nature, videos and pictures encourage interaction.

#4: Share Links

Links require interaction as users click on the link to view the object. While it’s good to share content from your own website, don’t be afraid to promote interesting content from other sources. Twitter users discovered long ago that the more content of value you share, the better chance you have of driving followers to your own content when the time comes. Again, a comment that encourages opening the link or leaving comments can go a long way.

commentsAn object that receives comments is more likely to show in the Top News feed and also builds affinity with users who comment.

#5: Keep It Fresh

The Facebook stream moves quickly. If you’ve got objects that aren’t getting a response, don’t be afraid to let them go and move on to the next thing. If the object is good but didn’t get the response you desired, consider repurposing it or sending it out again at a different time of day.

#6: Ask Users to Share

Don’t be afraid to ask users to share objects or click on the Like button—especially if you’re new to Facebook. It can take a little while for a Facebook page to gain momentum. Anything you can do to help it along will only speed the process.

Although the introduction of EdgeRank may make it more difficult to share information on Facebook, ultimately it still comes down to content. Publishing content that users want to share and interact with has always been vital to any Facebook marketing campaign. With the recent Facebook changes, that content may now need a little extra push to get it the attention it deserves.

New website for Wildlife Preservation Canada

We were pleased to work with the good folks at Wildlife Preservation Canada on their new website that went live just before Christmas. WPC works only with species that are on the brink of extinction. Their biologists work to provide what amounts to an intensive care unit for species at risk who need much more than habitat protection. Fascinating work.

As with many cost-conscious non-profits, WPC’s previous website was built by and relied on the kindness of talented volunteers. But it was cumbersome and difficult to update.

They received a generous grant from MEC to build this new site. We built it on WordPress so that it’s easy for them to use and to update. The design draws you in with the beautiful photos of the wildlife they work with, and then clear navigation takes you into the depth of the information they have to offer. At every stop, it’s easy to find where to make a donation to the cause. It links to a blog so that their biologists can send updates from the field — and you can feel like you’re right in the trenches with them. In the background, we built in analytics and SEO optimization so that WPC can watch their site’s performance and refine the site as it lives and grows.

Kabisa worked together with Mondodigitalis (web development) and MereName Design (graphics) to create this new virtual home for WPC.

New Year’s Eve is giving prime time

Bags of discarded decorations are out on the curb. Needles from the tree coat the floor. The lethargy of holiday merriment persists. But for charities this is no time to rest. Between Christmas and New Years is prime time for ‘generous procrastinators’.

So says a seven year study by Network for Good. We all know that December is the traditional top month for charitable giving. A third of charities’ online donations are made in December. Perhaps more remarkable, says the study: “22 percent of online gifts are made in the last two days of the year.”

The study found that the primest prime time for online giving occurs on December 31 between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. in the donor’s time zone.

Make sure all systems and backup systems are go for these crucial year end days. Send out that final reminder email. And then have yourselves a very happy new year!

Forget the funny and focus on loyal donors at Christmas

Banned Nando's Chicken ad

Banned Nando's Chicken ad

It’s darn hard to be funny—and to get your point across, especially at Christmas.

A perfect case in point in the Nando’s Chicken ad called “The Last Dictator Standing.” It is guffaw-level funny in its depiction of Zimbabwe’s President Mugabe frolicking with his former fellow autocrats to the tune of “Those were the days, my friend” prior to sitting down by himself at a Christmas banquet and a bucket o’ chicken. There’s a great punch line that I won’t spoil for you.

But Mugabe supporters didn’t think it was so funny and threatened Nando’s Chicken outlets in Zimbabwe. The South African company was forced to pull the ad out of circulation.

The Toronto charity, War Child, also tried a funny that flopped. Last Christmas, they put out two ads poking fun at tacky, useless Christmas presents. The tagline was: “Bad gifts don’t save lives. War Child gifts actually do.” They admitted that the ads did very poorly, but chalked it up to too crowded a market place over the prime time for charitable giving.

Both ads, however, proved an opposite case to the statement of the tagline and didn’t make sense. In both cases, the tacky presents actually saved lives. In one, a woman putting up a string of Christmas lights falls backwards and lands on a big, gaudily-wrapped pillow. In the other one, a man manages to give himself the Heimlich maneuver on a gilted leopard statue. Both lives saved by bad presents.

It left me scratching my head.  I do agree however with Stephen Jurisic, partner and creative director at John St who created the ad when asked what non-profits should do during the holidays.

“My advice would be to stay very focused on the loyal donors that you have, especially if you’re a small to medium-sized organization,” he says. “Do something more engaging at a less crowded time.”

John Deere has the next generation in its headlights

John Deere's massaging corn teether

In the centre fold of the Globe and Mail recently was an article on philanthropy outlining a troubling trend. The amount of charitable donations is bouncing back and the number of givers is up (comparing 2009 to 2010 stats). This is the happy news. At 53 however, the median age of the givers hasn’t changed in over a decade. That’s the troubling part.

The question for charities is how to attract younger donors, especially when lessons of generosity are often taught through religious institutions, which are also failing in our country.

Perhaps we should be taking a lesson from John Deere. I was on the hunt recently for a massaging corn teether for a very new relative. It’s a clever little gizmo that looks like a smily-faced cob of corn and when it is gnawed on by a discontented teether, it emits a soothing buzzzzzzzzzzz. The packaging indicates that it also teaches cause and effect—a very good lesson for a baby who might grow up on a farm and need to know the immediate ramifications of throwing a rock at a bull.

On a trip out of town, I came across a John Deere dealership and stopped in to have a look. The yard around the store was neatly filled with big-boy John Deere mechanisms. Inside, I was amazed to find clearly one-third of the store taken up with little-boy toys (the gender bias is profound … but that’s another story). Every real-live John Deere has a mini version, all in their carefully branded green and yellow.

On a website where they describe their brand, they are very intentional about wanting to build their business on the sons and grandsons (their words) of this generation of farmers. Every time a little boy climbs on a replica of a tractor pulling a round baler (package of four round bales sold separately), he imprints like a gosling with its mama. Brilliant.

At 174 years old as a business, I’d say they have developed an enduring brand. They were #98 in the top 100 brands in the world this year.

So, the question remains. How do today’s charities build linkages with the next generation of givers? Good examples include fluffy stuffed animals from WWF and those nifty magnets that hold pictures of sponsored children nose-height on fridges across the country.  What can you do to ingrain on the children and grand children of your most valued donors?


Giving and sex … who knew?

“We give from the heart—our most powerful engine for action. And we give because it feels good,” posits Laura Arrillaga-Andreessen in Giving 2.0. In her recent book aimed at philanthropists, she cites a study from the National Institute of Health that found when subjects were encouraged to think about giving, the same parts of the brain associated with pleasurable activities like eating or sex lit up (Nicholas Dristof, “Our Basic Human Pleasures: Food, Sex and Giving”, New York Times, January 16, 2010).

On the up side, this explains the utterly remarkable generosity I’ve seen over the course of 20 years working with non-profits. I’ve seen it from donors, of course—some of whom choose to live simply and give substantial amounts to worthy causes. It is almost part of their DNA. “You never meet a grumpy generous person,” was often quoted by clients at a charitable foundation.

I’ve also seen this at the opposite end of the spectrum, most notably in disasters. People often ask how I could go into relief situations, thinking it must be so depressing. Quite the opposite was true for me. Dire circumstances can bring out the very best in humanity. I was often astonished by people who had recently lost almost everything and yet had so much to give to the people around them and to me. There was often a palpable sense of joy and hope in the midst of tremendous loss.

On the down side, because it feels good, people are prone to give impulsively and Arrillaga-Andreessen counsels against that. “Give to what interests or excites you most and make it a long-term affair, rather than a philanthropic one-night stand.”

For organizations looking for charitable dollars, this means we have to keep up our side of the relationship. Fundraising can tug at the heart strings, but it has to be surrounded by the substance of impact and positive change.

This requires a continuous flow of information—story and statistics, emotion and evidence, losses and lessons learned. The best donors are being taught to expect nothing less. Are we ready for the challenge?

Resistance is futile: A brief primer on social media for the small non-profit

It’s a done deal. Today, there are more than 800 million active Facebook users, more than half of whom log on in any given day and the average user has 130 friends. Usage of Twitter, YouTube and a plethora of other platforms are likewise growing as individuals, business and organizations realize the tremendous potential to connect.

It can be daunting to wrap your head around these new media. But don’t despair. Here are some tips for those wanting to keep up:

  1. Start small. You and all your staff should at least have personal Facebook, YouTube and Twitter accounts. These are the big players and it makes most sense, especially if you’re small, to go deep on a few platforms rather than spread yourself too thin.
  2. Lurk and follow. Friend and link to organizations or people you think you might have something to learn from. Be sure to follow similar organizations to your own to see what they are doing. Watch and learn. Find your niche. Get comfortable with how it works.
  3. Develop a compendium of stories. They are all around you—success stories from the people you help, compelling stories about your donors or staff, obstacles overcome, events taking place, the history of your organization, blogs from the field, position papers of relevant issues, related posts from respected peers, significant anniversaries, etc., etc., etc.
  4. Set up a plan to divvy those compelling stories (and asks) out over the course of the year and through the various channels at hand. Go for quality over quantity. Provide value and insight. Post to Facebook at least once a week, but never more than twice a day. It’s perfectly OK to do the same with Twitter.
  5. Integrate it all to create a smooth, accessible, two-way path to the people most interested in your cause or product—through your website (homebase), through outbound, one-way communications (print and email), and through social media.
  6. Feel good about intentional redundancy. There should be many paths to the same fount of knowledge.
  7. Track what happens using all the metrics at hand. Establish a presence, observe, listen, build relationships, discuss and replicate the successes.

Social media doesn’t replace any of your more traditional ways of communicating with stakeholders—it integrates with and expands your potential. Dive in and enjoy.


Growing a website

As my life and the state of renovations around our house finally allow me space to muck about in the dirt, I see that gardening is a metaphor for all sorts of things. Perhaps that’s because as one performs the physically consuming tasks of casting out weeds, heaving sod and coaxing plants, the mind wanders in fruitful directions.

I also find myself doing lots of websites these days, and there are many similarities between the two enterprises. Predominantly, both suffer immediately and disastrously from neglect. Weeds grow and choke out the pretty or useful stuff. At one point in our lives, we left our house to a non-gardening renter for two years. There was practically nothing left in the beds by the time we returned. Fortunately, my garden acquisition methodology involves a wheelbarrow and jaunts through the neighbourhood in early spring to find out what others have too much of in their own gardens. I figure, if it’s growing in someone else’s garden to excess, it will grow in mine.

And so it goes with websites. They grow stale and choke without constant attention. Many clients come having not updated their backend or frontend for longer than they know. It doesn’t take long until sites look dated, cluttered and cold. Websites need to be active and fresh, which requires that they be easy to update and analyze.

Watching the analytics is like picking out the weeds—you can see pretty clearly what parts of the site aren’t bearing fruit and which ones are. You clear out the non-desirables and give the good bits more room to flourish. It’s not a once-and-done deal. Like gardens, tending an exuberant website is an iterative activity. Daily, weekly, monthly. Always something to do.

And I often wheelbarrow around virtually, scanning websites to see what’s fresh and new. It fuels the imagination and sparks creativity. No two gardens or websites are ever the same, even if many of the components are. Each has its own unique creator, audience and growing environment. A wealth of diversity to dig in and explore.

Sucking Out Our Brains Through Our Eyes

George Monbiot

Advertising trashes our happiness and trashes the planet. And my income depends on it.

By George Monbiot. Published in the Guardian 24th October 2011

We think we know who the enemies are: banks, big business, lobbyists, the politicians who exist to appease them. But somehow the sector which stitches this system of hypercapitalism together gets overlooked. That seems strange when you consider how pervasive it is. In fact you can probably see it right now. It is everywhere, yet we see without seeing, without understanding the role that it plays in our lives. Read more …..