What’s EdgeRank, you ask?  It’s only the single most important concept for brands looking to market themselves via Facebook.  I am going to help you understand it so you can make the most of your brand’s Facebook effort.

When you log in to Facebook as yourself, you land on your home page. That page has two viewing options – Top News and Most Recent (look in the upper right hand corner under the search box).  The default view, and the one which the vast majority of people use, is Top News.  In fact, something like 95% of people never view their news feed any other way.

Top News is the default view in Facebook

So what’s “Top” News? It’s the content that Facebook has decided is the most important for you.  Not your best friend, not your colleague, and not your spouse.  Everyone on Facebook is going to see different status updates, even if they have the same friends – and how that’s determined is governed by EdgeRank.  It’s an algorithm. But please don’t stop reading, even if this next graphic scares you:

EdgeRank is an important concept for Facebook What this means is that for any status update (from an individual or from a brand – both are EdgeRank-dependent), there are three things that determine whether any given Facebook friend or Fan will see it.  For this explanation, we’re going to assume you’re posting as the brand.

You probably already know that gathering Likes and Comments on your updates is important – all three parts of EdgeRank help you understand why.

1. Affinity: How close is the user to the brand? Do they Like or Comment on the brand’s updates often? Visit their wall regularly? Share their content with others?  If so, the Affinity score will be higher.  If they rarely engage with the brand, Affinity will be low.

2. Type: What kind of update is it? Facebook seems to weight media (video and photos) more strongly than regular status updates, and updates with links more strongly than those without. And a Comment is more valuable than a Like. So don’t just post a lot of plain status updates – spice them up with links, photos and videos, when you can. Also, check out other Facebook services, like Places and Facebook Questions – they also seem to rank higher and are more frequently seen in people’s feeds.  And this is where getting people to Like or Comment on your status quickly (and a lot) helps, because an update with a lot of engagement is ranked as a higher type than an update without.

3. Time: Facebook wants you to regularly update your status. And they reward you for it. Recent content with quick initial activity will often appear in your fans’ feeds.  If your content is stale, it may never appear, even if it eventually gathers a few Likes and Comments.  But this also explains why you might only see some friend’s or brand’s updates 18 hours or a day after it’s posted – because it took that long for it to become important to you, meaning other people had to like it or comment on it before it made it into your news feed.

The bottom line for what EdgeRank means for marketers: create great Facebook content that people will interact with, as quickly as possible.  Purposefully create content that will generate comments. Update frequently. Optimize your page so people are more likely to interact with it.

If you’re authentically creating content that your fans enjoy, EdgeRank should come naturally. But it sure can’t hurt to know the details so you can gain a little bit of an edge yourself.