Since the creation of the News Feed in 2006, Facebook has continually been improving it. How the algorithm fully works remains a well kept secret, however we know how the general structure works. EdgeRank (which used to be the algorithm used for the News Feed) hasn’t been used for a few years now, but it’s basic 3 points are still part of today’s algorithm. Let’s quickly look at those:
  1. User Affinity – this is the relationship between the user and the Facebook page (since when does the user like it and how often do they interact with the page.)
  2. Content Weight – the frequency of the user’s interaction with the content (do they like, comment, and/or share, do their friends also interact with it.)
  3. Time-based Decay – the content which will appear for a user is based on how often they go on Facebook (eg. a post may be older but a user who hasn’t logged on in a week will still find it relevant OR a user who is constantly online will only want to see new posts.)
Facebook now uses a machine learning algorithm that takes into account more than 100,000 factors. Affinity, Weight, and Decay are still important factors but with each there are multiple layers.

Algorithm changes to support longer videos

In January 2017, Facebook announced another change to their algorithm which goes hand in hand with their general push for more high quality video on the platform. In the past, the algorithm ranked videos with an emphasis on completion rate of a video. If a user watches most or all of a video, it tells Facebook that they found the video captivating and therefore should be ranked higher. It seems obvious that a one minute video which has been watched for 50 seconds (83%) on average should be ranked higher than another one minute video where the average watch time has been only 10 seconds (17%). But what if someone watched a 3 minute video for one minute (33%) and a 20 second video for just 10 seconds (50%)? In the past, the 20 second video would have been seen superior because of the higher completion rate although the watch time is significantly lower. Since completing a longer video is a bigger commitment than a shorter one, Facebook has now adjusted the algorithm to weigh the completion more heavily the longer the video is.
A good move in our opinion: “Longer videos are getting more traction on Facebook these days which makes total sense. Beforehand the algorithm judged based on completion rate only with no attention to length (obviously a big disadvantage for longer videos per se),” said Patrick Bales, Founder & CEO of StoYo Media. “Not a big shift but we’re happy for any improvement of the algorithm which gives priority to better content.” However, there’s a chance that this change now leaves some room for misinterpretation: “If you believe that all your videos have to be more than a minute from now on that’s  wrong. In the past, the algorithm gave longer videos a big disadvantage in the feed since. This disadvantage is now gone but an engaging 20 second video will still win over a long and boring three minutes video.”

So how should you change your video approach?

When it comes to having a successful video, engagement is key, not the video length. The best length is the amount of time needed to create a compelling story that will push people to like, comment, and share. Well produced, well written, relevant content is what will get videos to gain a larger reach. Put simply, your main focus when creating a video should always be quality.
At StoYo, we always try to tell all relevant elements of a story. If there’s a story which has enough content to fill a minute or even more, that’s wonderful. However, attention spans on smartphones are at all time lows and it will always be key to tell the story in a concise way.