How News Feed Works

In This Article

The basic functions of News Feed

How Facebook prioritizes stories in News Feed

Best practices for nonprofits to maximize their reach in News Feed

The Basics

News Feed is a personalized stream of stories in the middle of every person’s Facebook home page— this includes status updates, photos, videos, links, app activity, group conversations and more.

The goal of News Feed is to show people the stories that matter to them most — by showing people the most relevant stories to them higher up in their feeds, we hope to create the best, personalized experience for everyone using Facebook. We do this by taking into account thousands of signals and ranking stories from most to least relevant for each person. Every time someone refreshes their feed, News Feed ranks all the stories they are eligible to see and delivers them in this order to their feed.

  • More than 1.6 billion people use Facebook to connect to the things they care about.
  • 1.09 billion of them visit Facebook every day.
  • The average visitor spends 50 minutes on the site.
  • On average, there are more than a billion stories posted to Facebook every day.

Here we will explain some of the signals we look at, how we rank content in people’s News Feeds and best practices for you, as a nonprofit, to reach the audiences you want to reach.

How News Feed Prioritizes Stories

The three main types of signals used to estimate post relevance to each person are:

  • WHO POSTED IT – The friends, family, news sources, businesses and public figures a person interacts with most are prioritized in their News Feed.
  • POST TYPE – Whether it’s photos, videos, or links, News Feed prioritizes the types of posts that a person interacts with most frequently.
  • POST ACTIVITY – Posts that have a lot of likes, comments and shares (especially from the people a person interacts with most) could appear higher in a person’s feed.

It’s possible to see posts from people and Pages you aren’t connected with if a friend or Page that you are connected with engages with that post. For example, if you’re friends with Joan Smith you could see a story in your News Feed that says “Joan Smith liked this post from Mercy Corps”, even if you have not liked the Mercy Corps Page. When you create posts that people engage with, your content will reach more people who have liked your Page and their friends.

NOTE: The metric used to quantify how many people see your post is called reach. Reach is the number of unique people your post has been distributed to. Using Page Insights will help you see this number sliced a few different ways.

What Does This Mean for Nonprofits on Facebook?

A key tactic to reach a desired audience is to create content that they want to see and be seen sharing.  You should think strategically about how to post content that is relevant to that audience, that they might like, share, comment on, or generally enjoy reading. To do this, it helps to understand the characteristics of your desired audience and the type of content they typically engage with.

Here are a few best practices that we’ve seen work for nonprofits on Facebook. Don’t worry about trying to do all of them at once. Pick a few that you think will work for you and start there.

Recruit the Right Followers

You want to build your Facebook community with people who truly want to read and engage with your content. It’s not necessarily helpful to grow your audience by using gimmicks or posting content that doesn’t reflect your objectives or your organization’s mission.

Get To Know Your Base

If you don’t know what people in your community want, find out by testing a variety of posts. You don’t need to have a perfect posting strategy from the beginning. Try posting regularly while intentionally changing the post length, type, tone and topic. After a couple weeks, go back and look at the Post Insights to see which posts are being engaged with. The goal is to hone in on the type of content and calls to action that are resonating with your supporters. You can learn about what your audience likes through Facebook Search, Page Insights or Audience Insights.

Share Individual Stories

People tend to interact with emotional or inspiring stories about people. Find the simple human stories featuring your beneficiaries, staff or volunteers and share them with your audience. You can test length, but typically try to keep stories short and include a photo or video of the person. Of course, make sure to get permission from your subjects before sharing their stories.

Post Images and Videos

Photos and video tend to be highly engaging on Facebook. Post photos of your programs, team, and volunteers, or upload themed albums. Images that are clicked on, liked, shared, or commented on will get higher reach than those not engaged with. We’ve found videos tend to be more engaging than any other content type. Videos played longer than three seconds, have sound activated, or are watched all the way through are prioritized in News Feed. Square-formatted videos and images are 4 times more likely to be shared.

Talk With, Not At

When your goal is to raise awareness, it can sometimes be tempting to talk at people, instead of instead of having a conversation. Facebook is a two-way communication channel. Learn what current and potential supporters want to talk about, and find ways to invite them into a conversation about your cause by sharing current events or asking their opinions.

Re-post What Works

It is not bad to periodically re-post your top performing content. If you find that a topic or image gets a lot of engagement, try re-posting it. Because News Feed curates what each person sees in order to serve them the most relevant and interesting content, it is very hard to “spam” the people who have liked your Page. You can monitor the negative feedback of a post through your insight data. Try following pages with a similar audience and re-sharing their high-performing content to your Page.

Teach New Things

People tend to engage with information that they didn’t know before. They also want to provide value to their community, so they like to share content that they think will be informative or valuable to their friends. What unique, inspiring or new information do you have to share with your audience?

Promote the “See First” List

If you hear feedback from people who have liked your Page that they are not seeing your posts in their News Feed, suggest they add your Page to their “See First” list by editing their News Feed preferences. A person’s See First list is the top people and Pages whose content they wish to have prioritized in their News Feed.

Post Regularly

Find a posting schedule that works for you and your team. Set a goal for the number of posts you want to publish each week. Many organizations aim to publish once a day. Some of that content can be re-sharing high-performing posts from your Page or Pages you follow. You can use the scheduler in your Page’s Publishing Tools to schedule your posts.

Respond

Respond to the people who do engage with you. Use the reply feature in the comment section or activate messenger on your Page to allow people to chat you. If supporters know that you care enough to respond to their questions or comments, they are more likely to leave comments and engage with your posts.

Learn From Other Pages

Find the content your supporters are engaging with from other organizations and nonprofits. You can learn from the content these other Pages publish to pull inspiration and creative ideas. Follow a few Pages that are popular among your Target Audience to see what kind of content they post that gets high engagement. Even if you’re not regularly using Ads, you can also use the Audience Insights tool to learn about the behavioral characteristics of your audience and the other Pages they like.

 

Learn More About How to Improve Engagement with your Posts