Facebook has become an all encompassing beast since it first launched to the public in 2006. Just about every adult you know more than likely has (or had) a Facebook account at some point. We use it keep up to date with friends and family, wish each other happy birthday, and find out who’s finally gotten married.

As a social media, Facebook has just about everything you need to communicate. Videos, photos, the ability to share articles, a dedicated space to share thoughts in any form, and of course, to spread the word about our businesses.

While many of us are comfortable with how Facebook works and we use it every day, very few of us really understand just how Facebook works. Sure, we’ve all heard of the elusive “Facebook algorithm” which seems to change and evolve at the drop of a hat, but what does that mean? How come we don’t always see the posts our friends share? Or how can we make our business posts more easily found?

The F8 conference

The Facebook timeline, with all of its bells and whistles, no longer needs to be a confusing place. At the recent F8 conference, which takes place every year, Facebook Developers released new products and took the time to explain some interesting facts about the social media giant. If you weren’t lucky enough to attend the conference, the Facebook for Developers page is filled with videos from the conference.

One very interesting video which stood out was a session by Adam Mosseri, Facebook’s VP of Product for News Feed, titled “News Feed: Getting Your Content to the Right People”. In the video, Mosseri walks us through the mammoth task of understanding the Facebook news feed and all it has to offer.

Here are a few need-to-know pointers from the talk.

The purpose of Facebook

If it weren’t for the people we friend or the business pages we Like, our Facebook news feeds would be a dull place. Referred to as a “blank slate”, Mosseri points out that ultimately what we see or don’t see on our Facebook news feeds is entirely up to us as the users. The friends we add to our accounts and the pages we Like are what form the sort of content we see on a daily basis.

Don’t close your account just yet, this doesn’t mean that you’ll be stuck seeing the same old posts by your wacky aunt. Thankfully Facebook has left the power in our hands and has built tools that allow us to control what we see. But there’s a science behind the photos and videos that pop up on our news feeds.

Each story that is shared by the companies you follow and the people you friend is looked at individually. It’s a mind-blowing process that won’t make much sense to a regular Joe like you or me, but we can understand how it works.

Why is that post in your news feed?

If you refresh your Facebook news feed right now, a photo or video that has been posted by one of your good friends may pop up. It’s no coincidence or accident that you’re seeing that particular post. Facebook looks at many different factors which should determine whether or not you’d be interested in seeing that post at all.

  1. Who posted it? Facebook looks at whether or not you are related and/or interact with the person posting the article, video, or image. If you interact with this person regularly, Facebook may think you’d like to see more of what they have to say.
  2. What type of content is being shared? Based on how often you Like or comment on certain types of content (videos, photos, links etc.), Facebook builds an assumption that you prefer seeing that particular sort of post.
  3. How many interactions has the post received? If two people you converse with regularly via Facebook each post a video that Facebook thinks you’ll like at the same time, depending on how much interaction each post has gotten will affect whether or not that post will pop up on your news feed. Naturally, Facebook assumes that a post with more interaction is more valuable to you.
  4. When was the post created? Newer posts may not necessarily show up first on your news feed. If an older post is more relevant to you, and you haven’t seen it yet, Facebook calculates that you’d rather see an old story, than a boring new story.
  5. What is the post’s relevancy score? Based on all of the above factors, Facebook calculates a relevancy score for each post shared. Every single time. Posts are then ranked by score on your news feed to give you the best possible chance of seeing content that you’re interested in! Each time you refresh your news feed, the calculations start again.

Control is in your hands

Mosseri admits that Facebook is bound to get it wrong at times and you may see a post in your timeline that you definitely don’t want to lay eyes on again. That’s why Facebook has created controls which allow you to stay in charge of your news feed.

Follow/Friend – The decision to follow or friend a company or person is totally in your hands.

Unfollow – Tired of seeing a high school friend’s rants? Simply unfollow their posts without having to unfriend them. You still have the freedom to communicate with each other, but without having to be bombarded by links you’d rather not see.

Hide – If you see posts about a particular topic that upsets you, hide that content and Facebook will attempt to limit you ever seeing that sort of content again.

See First – If you find a particular page’s posts extremely interesting or you never want to miss an update by your mom, simply set their posts as most important with the See First option. These posts will appear at the top of your news feed no matter their relevancy score.

And there you have it. A closer glimpse at just how Facebook really works.

If you’d like to watch the full 10 minute session, take a look at the video below.