Social Media Research, Social Media Tools, Facebook

3 Ways to Fight Facebook’s Algorithm and Customize Your Feed

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Jay Baer Blog PostMy wife asked me today if something had changed at Facebook.

“I used to see a lot more posts from my friends about where they are, and what they are doing, and the basic comings and goings. I like that stuff, because I can easily keep up to speed with them. But I’m not seeing it as much lately.”

I’ve noticed it as well. Have you?

Some in the social media cognoscenti will tell you it’s because the masses are tiring of Facebook.

“Kids don’t use Facebook anymore because their parents are on it,” they sniff.

The other favorite theorem of the digital royalty is that the technologists, early adopters, and ironic T-shirt wearers have moved on to the next hot thing (G+, Path, and Tumblr, respectively).

But the reality is that it’s all hokum. First of all, if you’re reading this post YOU ARE NOT AVERAGE. Never fall into the trap of thinking your behavior, or the behavior of your friends and business associates, is representative of how the masses do anything – and most especially how they use Facebook. You are an edge case. An outlier. A statistical anomaly. A freak. The exception that proves the rule. 

The truth is that yes, GROWTH of Facebook usage is slowing because ubiquity puts a natural brake on expansion. But USAGE of Facebook is most assuredly not slowing.

Our research at The Social Habit (get your copy now: it’s 300+ charts of amazing data) found that more than half of all Americans 12+ are on Facebook, and 84% of Americans 12+ who are on Facebook have used it in the past 24 hours.

Even more to the point, sure we’re all in a lather about newfangled social networks, but among American social media users 12+ who have a Facebook account, 85% say they are using it more or the same lately. This compares to 82% for Instagram users, 78% for Pinterest users, and 68% for Tumblr users.

Social Media Usage

Enough math. Let me summarize by saying that for now, anyone that tries to tell you that Facebook is over is either misleading or misinformed.

Facebook Isn’t Dead, But It Is Changing

But, that doesn’t mean Facebook isn’t changing. The September 20 big tweak to the EdgeRank algorithm that governs what gets seen in your news feed drew quite a bit of attention within the industry (excellent coverage here by EdgeRankChecker). We even talked about it in our daily One Social Thing email.

Facebook has altered the math of the game so that only posts that get a disproportionate amount of engagement (likes, clicks, comments, shares) will be seen by a lot of people – regardless of whether those people are fans or friends. This opens up more real estate for Promoted Posts (ads) from companies or people. That’s right, Facebook also (somewhat quietly) announced that they are opening up the option for individuals to buy exposure on a per-post basis. So, if you want even more people to see your cat doing that funny thing, you can spend $7 to make it so.

Will companies start to recruit fans to promote posts on their personal pages, reimbursing them the $7 per post in the form of coupons and special offers? Stupid question. Of course they will. We’ll probably try it for our clients, too.

Friends In News Feed Only

But back to my wife’s query. The way the EdgeRank algorithm works is that historical and post-level engagement is the key to exposure. So, she enjoys quick updates from friends about their location and similar stuff, but those posts do not solicit gobs of clicks, likes, or shares. Consequently, she’s not seeing them as much.

Informationally, Facebook has set it up so that the rich get richer. The “good stuff” will be seen by more, and the “boring stuff” will be seen by few or none. I’m not sure that’s optimal from a personal connection standpoint, because it smells of forced virality. But, I can understand their point. There is far too much content being published to show it to all of the people who have “subscribed” to see it via “fan” or “friend” connection. They also need to make money, so they have to reserve some of that news feed for sponsored content.

Imagine if Gmail only delivered 25% of your email, based on what they think you’d like, and left some room for ads. You’d be outraged, right? Actually, they already do that via spam filters and integrated advertising.

How to See More (or Less) From Your Friends

So you may not love the new EdgeRank, but at least there are at least 3 ways to wrestle with it and better optimize your personal news feed on Facebook.

Facebook Sorting Mechanism1. Change Your News Feed Setting to Most Recent

This is the easiest but most broad way to see more posts on Facebook from a wider swath of your connections. It organizes your feed by publication date rather than by Facebook’s judgement of what you’ll like best. Works great, but it’s either/or.

2. Use Facebook’s Friends Organizer Tool

This doesn’t get talked about much, but Facebook is of course constantly monitoring your interactions with other members’ content. If you go to it will walk you through a process to move people to your Acquaintances list. This reduces how much you see from them, opening up more news feed real estate to see additional content from the people to whom you are closer. Not as broad as the News Feed setting, but still pretty chunky.

3. Change Story Preferences For Individuals

Facebook Person ControlsYou can customize what and how much you see from each of your Facebook friends. Click the arrow next to a status update of theirs and click hide (don’t worry, you can undo). Then click “Change what updates you get from <name>”. From there, you can select how much of what they publish you see, and even make some topical decisions. For instance, for your Farmville-loving neighbor, uncheck the “Games” option. Voila! This of course takes some work, but is the best way to make sure you’re seeing what you want to see.


I’m not doing cartwheels about how Facebook is handling EdgeRank, but as long as nearly everyone is going to use it as the de facto social network (and they are), I’m glad we at least have ways to tweak it to our personal preferences.

Have you used these tools?

Facebook Comments


  1. says

    Great post Jay. One additional tip. If you REALLY want to see every action from someone on Facebook, mark them as a “close friend” on their profile. As long as they are not active on Facebook 100 times a day (and you use the feature sparingly) it can really help you see these smaller actions for one person or a small group.

  2. says

    I’m pretty disappointed overall with their changes but as a small business owner, I know it makes my job a bit easier. So I’m not sure … personally hate it, professionally love it?

      • says

        Sorry, missed your reply until now. I agree – but it makes it “easier” to get your name out. Just spend more. If there’s very little you can do to make it work organically, all you can do is spend. So you have the choice to spend or not. That’s “easy” Facebook marketing – just not very good for ROI at the end of the year.

  3. says

    From the creative angle, couldn’t this be a win for quality? That is, if brands, and even friends for that matter, are forced with a choice: create content that WOWS or creates engagement (more likes, comments, etc.) or pay $7.00 – we theoretically could see much healthier more thoughtful content (or alternatively Facebook sees more revenue).

  4. says

    I’m using the Change Preferences for Friends for the opposite reason — to see less of their “watch this totally cool video!” or meme photos. (That’s the anti-social side of me.) Back to your point, I am noticing a ton more action in my ticker than in my newsfeed. That’s another place to get more info on friends and brands you like.

  5. says

    This is interesting NOW. But what does it portend for the future? Most “regular folks” signed up for Facebook to keep up with their “friends.” What happens when all they start seeing is promoted and corporate posts? Then the utility is diminished and so will usage. It’s like TV networks dialing up the percentage of commercials per hour. How long before people find alternatives?

    And when people find out they’re posting and no one sees it? How long will they contribute/participate?

    And all these tools for tweaking the feed are fine, but Facebook’s UI is so terrible, even a vet facebooker like me can’t find these. What about those “regular folks”?

  6. says

    How can we customize what we see from our favorite fan pages? Most of them have all but disappeared from my newsfeed – unless they are from HUGE companies.

  7. says

    Excellent article, Jay! I like Jason’s point below – designating someone as a “close friend” makes a huge difference.

    Another way to see more of your friends (or fav brands) is to make sure you like or comment on the posts that you DO see more often. Also make a point of going to their page occasionally, instead of relying on just what appears on your wall.

    The more you engage, the more you’ll see in your feed.

  8. says

    Hi Jay, as you know I loved this article and featured it on my blog. I took your advice and changed my feed settings. I like what I’m seeing much better now and there’s more variety, but what I don’t like and am not sure it’s related to the changes I’ve made is that I’ve gone from less than 10 notifications/day to 30-40+! Know why this is happening? Thanks.

    • says

      Jamie, if you switched some of your friends to “good friends” et al, it will give you auto notifications from them. Go into your settings and turn that off, and you should be A-Okay!

  9. JenT says

    Thanks for the tips on the “friends organizer” tool – that was new to me. Apparently there is a maximum number of acquaintances were are allowed… I’ve hit mine (probably 40-50 ppl), and it won’t let me make any adjustments, now.

  10. Probably not a potato says

    If my friends go to the trouble of posting something, I want to see it. If they just idly click ‘like’ on something random, I dont care. I have no use for recomended pages, I dont want to see comments freinds make on posts by people I dont know, I dont want to see apps or games updates. Facebook could make it so much easier and more user freindly. They are starting to alienate their users.

  11. Shelley Seale says

    One thing I don’t understand, is why I still see “new” posts in my newsfeed when a friend comments on something – EVEN though I have their “comments and likes’ activity unchecked! For example, I have a friend and in her settings, I have UNCHECKED the comments and likes. However, it still shows up in my news feed as “Jane Doe commented on….” blah blah blah, with the commented-upon post or photo right below it. I unchecked this box on most all my friends because I only want to see the posts ONCE, not every time everyone comments on or likes something. ?? What has changed to mess up these settings?

  12. Robin Ruff Leja says

    These changes are to benefit businesses, and of course they are the ones who pay the bills. But personally? It’s a mess. I’m seeing the same posts over and over again, simply because people continue to engage in that post. I have all comments and likes turned off, yet I see them anyway. My newsfeed is twice as long as it once was, and I can’t tell when I’ve scrolled down to the content I’ve already read because of the duplicate postings. It’s the “Last Actor” garbage that is making me crazy! Story Bumping isn’t much better. I’m very open to changes and improvements, but for goodness sake, let me make relevant changes on my own. Don’t decide for me what I get to see! You’ve made “Most Recent” irrelevant, because the newsfeed is no longer in time order.

  13. Suzanne says

    I prefer to keep my news feed at most recent. And yet Facebook often changes it back to top stories. Often those stories are of no interest to me at all. The most recent changes to add other stories I might be interested in or pages I may like are at best laughable, at worst annoying. Yes, I read a post about Hillary Clinton. Why would they then recommend a page about Rand Paul? It’s a mess.

  14. Dean says

    The thing is, most people do not really tweak anything on Facebook. Not even their privacy settings. While you can tweak your FB to better show content from your friends, it’s unlikely your friends will do the same. They will just think you never post updates.

  15. Jennifer Michelle says

    Hey Jay, Love your stuff; always great information in your posts. I was just curious – why don’t you include the dates on posts? You have such great SEO value, your stuff still comes up in Google, and it’s difficult to identify when the piece was written. Just a curiosity question :)