Facebook is the biggest social network, but there is a lot more to social media than Facebook. Still, my title stands. If you tried to find the most important face of social media, it has been and continues to be Facebook. Why is this important? Because what Facebook does can give us clues as to how the whole industry will go. Now, understand, I am not saying that Facebook is the best at everything. YouTube is definitely a more important place for video. Blogs offer a form that Facebook doesn’t have. Pinterest and Vine and lots of other venues outdo Facebook in many ways. But to me, Facebook is the one to watch. And what I am watching is filtering–EdgeRank is something that is the first of its kind, not the last.
For those of you that don’t know, Facebook is the first social network to have a ranking algorithm, which it calls EdgeRank. Facebook does not show every post that could hit your stream–some estimate that it shows only one out of every 500 (!) items that it could show. Why doesn’t it show everything? One reason is that there is just plain too much sharing going on–you can’t keep up with it all. But another reason is that if it doesn’t show everything, there becomes a basis for brands to buy advertising to interrupt the stream. If you can’t earn your way into the stream, then you can buy your way in.
How does EdgeRank work? Well, just as with search ranking algorithms, Facebook won’t divulge its exact makeup, because it doesn’t want to make it easier to reverse engineer. But we know that it takes into account connection (the more engaged you are with someone’s posts, the more likely they will continue to hit your stream), importance (weightier information is favored, so a video is more important than a “like”), and timeliness (newer is better).
So, all that is nice, but how does that make Facebook the icon of social media? My belief is that all of the social networks will be forced to emulate EdgeRank–for the same two reasons. I am already overwhelmed by Twitter–and LinkedIn and Google+ are not far behind. And at least Twitter is looking for a new revenue stream–and might already be inching toward the ranking model.
So, if your marketing plan is based on getting your message out with Twitter, understand that at some point you’ll have a lot more trouble breaking through, the same way brands do now on Facebook. They may not lead on everything, but I think Facebook is leading the way on filtering posts for your stream.