One of the things that Facebook ads can reliably do is send traffic to a website. This has many uses for advertising a business or improving a site’s SEO by increasing the number of page visits. However, Facebook has begun cracking down on what it feels is social media optimization spam and banning pages that do it. Since the line between legitimate SMO practices and spam can seem thin, it’s important to understand what actions are considered unacceptable by Facebook.
Over the past couple of years, Facebook has done a lot to fight practices that create inauthentic activity on Facebook. Typically, this refers to any tactic used to confuse people about the source of content, or tricking people to engage with content to the benefit of the page owner. This can be from a group trying to inflate their political influence or website owners tricking people to visiting ad farm sites.
In a blog post announcing the new efforts, Facebook gave the following examples: “One common type of spam has been posts that hawk fraudulent products like fake sunglasses or weight loss “remedies.” But a lot of the spam we see today is different. The people behind it create networks of Pages using fake accounts or multiple accounts with the same names. They post clickbait posts on these Pages to drive people to websites that are entirely separate from Facebook and seem legitimate, but are actually ad farms. The people behind the activity also post the same clickbait posts in dozens of Facebook Groups, often hundreds of times in a short period, to drum up traffic for their websites. And they often use their fake accounts to generate fake likes and shares. This artificially inflates engagement for their inauthentic Pages and the posts they share, misleading people about their popularity and improving their ranking in News Feed. This activity goes against what people expect on Facebook, and it violates our policies against spam.”
Just as there is such a thing as Black Hat SEO, there is such a thing as Black Hat Social Media Marketing. There are tactics that can be used to artificially increase engagement, but it’s only a matter of time before social media platforms take actions against pages who use unethical practices. Many of the things Facebook mentioned in the excerpt above are high-level black hat tactics, as most social media managers aren’t going to create hundreds of fake accounts to create a coordinated astroturf campaign.
One thing that social media marketers should take note of is the prohibition against creating a large number of ads that go to ad farm websites. This seems like an issue that could come up for certain social media clients. Many websites that rely on advertising revenue add a lot ad opportunities to their site and use Facebook ads on multiple accounts to promote content from their site. The question becomes how many ads on a particular page does it take for it to be considered an ad farm and how many different Facebook pages can promote the same content? For the most part, Facebook will be looking at behaviors to determine what qualifies as spam content or tactics.
As was stated before, Facebook is only targeting the worst abusers with a particular focus on pages that focus on political issues or spammers who are going to extreme measures to promote spammy content. To put it another way, pages that are in trouble of running afoul of Facebook’s new rules are aware of what they are doing and the new rules won’t affect everyday social media managers. But make no mistake, Facebook is taking the issue seriously.
In the blog post cited earlier, they explained, “Today, we’re removing 559 Pages and 251 accounts that have consistently broken our rules against spam and coordinated inauthentic behavior. Given the activity we’ve seen — and its timing ahead of the US midterm elections — we wanted to give some details about the types of behavior that led to this action. Many were using fake accounts or multiple accounts with the same names and posted massive amounts of content across a network of Groups and Pages to drive traffic to their websites. Many used the same techniques to make their content appear more popular on Facebook than it really was. Others were ad farms using Facebook to mislead people into thinking that they were forums for legitimate political debate.”
As an added bonus for legitimate social media marketers, removing the pages and ad accounts of spammers means content and ads ethical publishers can get more reach for less money. For more news about social media marketing, read this article on recent changes to the Twitter timeline.