Logging into Facebook this morning, I learned (after asking a friend to translate) that my ‘top’ piece of news is that a girl I met once in a club on a recent trip to Poland is excited about a dubstep concert tomorrow. Aside from having to google dubstep, I also wondered why Facebook had decided this was the key story of my day.
Although still largely a secret, Facebook has published some information about its algorithm which decides what makes our front page. Taking every interaction on Facebook as an ‘edge’, an importance score is applied to each edge to determine what makes top news. Presumably because I had sent several follow-up wall posts to Sylwia on my return, the fact that a lot of people had commented on her status, and that she has a lot of friends who frequently interact with her, Facebook had decided that she is important for me.
Facebook has been making decisions about the content in your News Feed for years. In 2007, tech blogger Robert Scoble appeared to have hijacked Dare Obasanjo’s, a reflection of Scoble’s then-extensive activity on the site and their shared interest in technology (and Microsoft in particular – meaning friends and groups in common, mutual interactions, etc., etc.).
What interests me from a communications standpoint is how Facebook has applied a figure to all these people and interactions, and determined what it considers to be what we can call ‘key influencers’ in each user’s lives. Marketers have long known the importance of word-of-mouth to a company’s bottom line, and this is nowhere truer than online, particularly on social networks.
Forrester have recently published some ‘Peer Influence Analysis’ research on mass influencers online, a small key group of well-connected people who have a high influence on those who follow them. We know these people exist; finding out who they are for you is the challenge, Forrester suggest.
Facebook is making efforts to identify who the key influencers are in our day-to-day lives. What if someone could pick out key digital influencers for marketers? Switching from the scattergun approach that afflicts many online communications, to a highly-targeted effort to the right people with the right connections and influence can surely only be a positive thing. But where to start?
Clearly for me, it’s with the Ministry of Sound’s Sounds of Dubstep.