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If social media took a selfie, it would look like Facebook

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.

Selfie
Photo credit: Jon Chevier™

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.

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Mike Moran

Mike Moran is an expert in digital marketing, search technology, social media, text analytics, web personalization, and web metrics, who, as a Certified Speaking Professional, regularly makes speaking appearances. Mike’s previous appearances include keynote speaking appearances worldwide. Mike serves as a senior strategist for Converseon, an AI powered consumer intelligence technology and consulting firm. He is also a senior strategist for SoloSegment, a marketing automation software solutions and services firm. Mike also serves as a member of the Board of Directors of SEMPO. Mike spent 30 years at IBM, rising to Distinguished Engineer, an executive-level technical position. Mike held various roles in his IBM career, including eight years at IBM’s customer-facing website, ibm.com, most recently as the Manager of ibm.com Web Experience, where he led 65 information architects, web designers, webmasters, programmers, and technical architects around the world. Mike's newest book is Outside-In Marketing with world-renowned author James Mathewson. He is co-author of the best-selling Search Engine Marketing, Inc. (with fellow search marketing expert Bill Hunt), now in its Third Edition. Mike is also the author of the acclaimed internet marketing book, Do It Wrong Quickly: How the Web Changes the Old Marketing Rules, named one of best business books of 2007 by the Miami Herald. Mike founded and writes for Biznology® and writes regularly for other blogs. In addition to Mike’s broad technical background, he holds an Advanced Certificate in Market Management Practice from the Royal UK Charter Institute of Marketing and is a Visiting Lecturer at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. He also teaches at Rutgers Business School. He is a Senior Fellow at the Society for New Communications Research. Mike worked at ibm.com from 1998 through 2006, pioneering IBM’s successful search marketing program. IBM’s website of over two million pages was a classic “big company” website that has traditionally been difficult to optimize for search marketing. Mike, working with Bill Hunt, developed a strategy for search engine marketing that works for any business, large or small. Moran and Hunt spearheaded IBM’s content improvement that has resulted in dramatic gains in traffic from Google and other internet portals.

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