Story Bumping and Last Actor: Facebook’s News Feed Game Changers

Story Bumping and Last Actor: Facebook’s News Feed Game Changers

August 9, 2013

In an effort to demystify how they rank stories in the News Feed, Facebook announced the launch of two new algorithms – “Story Bumping” and “Last Actor” – that will shift the feed away from basic chronological ranking and towards more organic, engaging content.

The bigger of the two changes is Story Bumping, which ensures that posts buried too far in a user’s News Feed to see will be eligible to reappear – even days later – near the top of their feed if the content is deemed relevant. Facebook engineering manager, Lars Backstrom, summed it up when he said, “Instead of taking all the new stories and putting them at the top, we take the stories that are new to you.”

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When tested with 7,000 users, Story Bumping increased the number of News Feed stories read from 57% to 70% and increased page engagement by 8%!

This shift is highlighted by the increased News Feed visibility for posts with text and links versus the more traditional photo posts which were ranked higher in the previous algorithm. Earned media is a bit harder to achieve under the new system and requires more content to achieve engagement. However, Facebook notes that Story Bumping does not affect how paid content appears in the News Feed.

The second algorithm change – “Last Actor” – strives to answer the question, “What am I consuming right now?”

Last Actor captures the last 50 actions of the user from likes and comments to shares, and factors in this real-time data when ranking stories in their News Feed. So if a user interacts with an acquaintance or a restaurant they don’t normally visit, Last Actor shifts their News Feed accordingly. This alters the old system based on long-term engagement and factors in spiking trends and shifting interests based on daily interaction to react immediately to users’ changing tastes.

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What this means for advertisers is a broader market, but a smaller window of opportunity in the News Feed. This new fluidity can funnel new traffic to a trending topic or brand when in the past a user’s set preferences would have diverted a story away, but again, only if the story is ranked as relevant.

Facebook states that, “The goal of News Feed is to deliver the right content to the right people at the right time so they don’t miss the stories that are important to them.” Story Bumping and Last Actor tags in the algorithm ensure exactly that with an intuitively-updating News Feed peppered with real-time modifiers. Recommendations from friends, likes, and comments will drive engagement on Facebook now more than ever, so advertisers should continue to focus on creating a brand that responds to users’ tastes.

In short, quality content and linkability will keep users circulating marketing content, and thanks to these two additions to the Facebook News Feed algorithm, that content has the potential to be seen by more users, more frequently, in a more timely manner than ever before.