Guide

5 Mins

How to choose the right social feed type for your platform

Dec 21, 2022

Article banner- a user scrolling through his social feed
Article banner- a user scrolling through his social feed

Whether it’s the latest news, updates on business, or what your friends are up to, a social feed is a powerful way of sharing and consuming content. Think of it like a town square. But instead of just walking through that square, consuming fragments of random conversations, you can hear and engage in discussions about things that interest you. Just one example is Crunchbase, a platform which utilises its news feed feature to offer users a single place to find all the updates from the companies and investors they chose to follow.

For over a hundred years, The New York Times, boasted the motto: “All the news that's fit to print” on its front page. But in the digital age, with the explosion in the amount of available information, product owners and journalists, need to be smarter about the content they put in front of their users. So, if you are building a platform that serves content to users and want to learn about clever ways to improve results, read on to find out which type of social feed will best help to drive engagement - and keep your users coming back for more!

Types of feeds - what you need to know 

We analyzed dozens of social networks and products so you don’t have to. Here are the types of feeds we identified: 

Social feed tree chart. Feed can be either Activity or Discovery. Activity feed can be either algorithmic or chronological. Discovery feed can be either algorithmic or Personalized

Activity feed 

This option can also be described as a ‘following or news feed’. Examples include Instagram, LinkedIn and Crunchbase (as outlined above).

As widely used as it is, this type of feed has a big disadvantage - it requires a user to actively select brands and users to follow in order to see their content in the feed. But here’s a question: how do you know what you don’t know? An activity feed still requires the user to know who they want to follow, and while “follow recommendations” could definitely help, it still means that users could well miss out on all the relevant news that they should be seeing.

Discovery feed 

Also known as the ’For you’ feed, this type of feed, which gathers popularity, allows users to discover other content on a platform and isn’t biased to followed users or brands. But what takes this feature to the next level is personalization. 

Personalized discovery feed is a tool that drives up engagement by showing users what they want - before they even know it themselves! It’s the TikTok model of engagement and it works. No wonder it’s where all the traditional social platforms are now heading. When the big players are starting to move in on something, it’s time to pay attention. Not only has Google just launched Google Discover but LinkedIn is also currently trialing a discovery feed.

Getting it together - how to organize a feed

Look at any type of social feed and you’ll see it organized in one of three ways: 

Chronological

As you can probably guess from the name, the content on this type of feed appears in chronological order, with the most recent usually appearing at the top. One example of this is the Crunchbase activity feed.

Algorithmic

A formula behind this type of social feed usually shows a mix of the most popular content, some of the most recent posts, and promotional content/ads pushed by the platform itself. The content in the feed and the order of that content are the same for every user on the platform.

Personalized

By harnessing onboarding information, plus the activity on the platform, the experience is personalized for every single user. Built using Machine Learning, this type of feed ensures that users always see the content most relevant to them. One example of this type of feed is Facebook. 

Remember that town square we mentioned earlier? Well, think of a really effective personalized social feed like the experience of walking through the most interesting town square you’ve ever visited, where every single encounter, conversation, and activity is geared towards your precise interests!

How to choose the right feed 

Selecting the right type of feed involves answering three key questions:  

1. What is the frequency of new content generation?

  • Low: Less than one new piece of content a week

  • Medium: Multiple posts a week

  • High: Multiple posts a day

Naturally, frequency defines the level of work required. Lower frequency content can be easily curated with simple filters/tags helping to achieve content goals. Plus, there’s no burning need to personalize. However, once content frequency ramps up, it needs to be organized as users won't be able to see all of it.

2. How important is recency to you?

A critical question to ask yourself is: how evergreen is the content on your platform? Let’s take the example of MasterClass. This educational streaming platform doesn’t need to show the most recent content at the top because relevance to each user’s exact learning and development interests is of more value than recency in this context. 

However, in the case of the physical activity tracking app, Strava, however great your friendship is, you probably wouldn't be that interested in seeing a run that your friend went on a whole year ago…

Masterclass feed

3. What is the aim of your feed?

We don’t want to make assumptions here but it’s pretty safe to say that, whatever your type of platform, you want your users to keep coming back, right? Of course, you do. So, the aim of your feed is for users to start scrolling at the start of their session and get information of value to them and then keep coming back to your platform. And how do you achieve that? With a personalized feed! After all, it’s how TikTok works and TikTok users open the app an average of eight times a day! Now that’s an engagement rate every platform dreams about having…

A chart guiding the right feed selection

The takeaway

Social feeds are a powerful way to share content, but driving engagement is key in order for them to stay relevant and appealing. This involves carefully considering which type of feed is right for your platform and users and how best to organize it. Choosing the best feed for your platform means looking carefully at three areas: frequency, recency, and goals. When it comes to creating a social feed with content that builds and maintains the audiences you want, personalization is key. Learn more about how to win at building personalized feeds here.

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