The Science Behind Getting Your Ads Placed in Facebook News Feeds

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A peek under the hood of one of Facebook’s most important algorithms.


In this interesting interview with Fidji Simo and Hong Ge, product managers on the Facebook ads team, BuzzFeed News gets some intel on how Facebook users end up with certain ads in their News Feed.

Combining the potential value for the advertiser, the viewer, and the FB ad platform, a specific algorithm exists to determine which ads to serve to whom and when.

A few interesting facts about the FB Ad/News Feed algorithm:

-News Feed posts containing words inferring important life events, like ‘congratulations,’ in the post or in the comments are favorited and pushed to the top.

– Ads with quality content, like an engaging video, are more highly favored because they’re more likely to bring a positive experience to the user viewing the ad.

-62% of Facebook’s advertising revenue in Q2 of this year came from advertisements on mobile devices.

-Each Facebook user has the possibility of seeing an average of ten ads per day out of a possible 5,000-7,000 ads targeted at demographics specific to that user.

With these insights in mind, there are a few things brands can do so that their ads are more highly favored for the audiences that they’re trying to reach.

1. Use targeting tools! The more specific you make the demographics of your advertisement, the smaller the potential pool of users becomes and the more likely your ad will be shown to a higher amount of people to whom it is extremely relevant. You can set target demographics as general as age, location, and gender, or as specific as university attended and other page likes. The more defined your target ad audience is, the smaller number of ads you will be competing against, and the more likely you will appear in the News Feeds of the people you actually want to reach.

2. Make good stuff. The more advertisement-like your ad is, the less likely it is to be served. It isn’t news that the best content succeeds, but it is important to understand that this is even more relevant in the case of social advertising. Facebook is one of the best and most unique platforms for social advertising due to the plethora of personal information it has on its users, and it’s important for them to maintain this status. In order to do that, they need to keep their users happy so that they can continue to have this information and continue to be extremely attractive to potential advertisers. And, in order to keep Facebook users happy, the ads team makes sure that the advertisements that users are more interested in seeing are the ones that are served more often and higher up. Keeping ads interesting while still meeting your advertising goals is an important balance to figure out now more than ever.

3. Include a clear call to action. Take advantage of the eyeballs you’re able to get in front of by telling viewers exactly what you want them to do. Including a CTA that involves engaging with the ad on the Facebook platform could increase your likelihood of being served by increasing engagement on the post, which tells Facebook that audiences are likely to interact with this ad and are less bothered by it than others that they have chosen to ignore.

Of course the science truly lies in the algorithm, not in the creation of the ads, but keeping your content clear, compelling, and targeted may make the difference between getting seen and getting scrolled right past.

What would you add? What are your Facebook Ads best practices? I’d love to hear in the comments.

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About the Author

Ally Greer
Ally is's Director of Content & Community. She loves to geek out over anything social, Internet, or tech related. When she isn't working, you'll probably find her running the streets of San Francisco. Follow Ally on Twitter @allygreer.
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9 years ago

I never look at the ads, I always mark them as spam

Jennifer Martin
Jennifer Martin
9 years ago

“News Feed posts containing words inferring important life events, like ‘congratulations,’..” — it’s actually “implying,” not “inferring.” But good article. I think we all wonder about the logic behind FB ads…

Alice in action
Alice in action
9 years ago

Very interesting article, thank you for informing us so thoroughly on a subject on which we still have a lot to understand! Social media has an increasing influence on people of all ages and it is very useful to ”go to the backstage” sometimes and look at a different reality.

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