Whenever someone sets up a system, someone else will try to exploit the system to their advantage. Facebook has found itself dealing with more and more exploitative marketing tactics as the number of Facebook users increases and marketers are trying everything they can think of to boost their engagement. Early in April, Facebook announced that it was going to clean up people’s News Feeds by removing some of this spammy content. This post will show the three kinds of content Facebook is targeting and how marketers can make sure the pages they manage aren’t affected.
In many ways, Facebook’s changes to the News Feed algorithm are like an update from Google. Facebook is trying to reduce the amount of low-quality posts people see by rooting out pages that are trying to game the system.
“The goal of these changes is to make sure that News Feed delivers the right content to the right people at the right time, so everyone on Facebook sees the stories that are important to them,” the company explained in an April 10th news release.
Here are three class of posts that Facebook is targeting:
The biggest class of spam post that Facebook is targeting are like-baiting posts. One of the main things that determines a post’s reach is how much engagement it receives (likes, comments, and shares). The News Feed algorithm assumes that posts with high engagement are relevant. However, some people are creating posts that attempt to game the system by explicitly asking for engagement actions. It’s a paradox. People often respond to the actions the posts are asking of them so they get high engagement numbers. However, when surveyed about the quality of the stories, Facebook reported that users rated these stories as 15 percent less relevant that other stories with similar engagement numbers without the like baiting.
Like baiting is best explained by an extreme example that Facebook shared.. In the image below, people are encouraged to engage to select their favorite animal (and do nothing if they want to select mosquito).
The post illustrates how inappropriate like-baiting works. Most of the people who are liking commenting, and sharing aren’t doing so for the correct reasons. If Facebook were to continue to give posts like these high placement in News Feeds, it would decrease the quality of the experience for everyday users.
Facebook’s stance on like-baiting is understandable, but they haven’t given enough details for marketers to know where the line is. For example, on the other end of the spectrum from the image above, many businesses and nonprofits often say “like this post to show your support”. Technically, this is like-baiting, so would Facebook reduce the reach of that post. Because of the uncertainty and since liking posts you support is implied is implied, the marketers can really just leave the line out. Similarly, it’s unclear if business can still host contests where users “like this post to enter”. Though Facebook only recently allowed these kinds of contests to proceed, there’s a chance that the tactic will work against a business’s plan for increased reach.
Frequently Circulated Content
Facebook is also taking action to reduce frequently circulated content. Facebook’s concern is not that recycled content often violates copyright law (though business owners should be concerned about it). Rather, they are noting that repeated content is annoying for users, who may end up seeing the same popular post in their newsfeed several times.
“We’ve found that people tend to find these instances of repeated content less relevant, and are more likely to complain about the Pages that frequently post them,” wrote Erich Owens and Chris Turitzin, a software engineer and product manager for Facebook.
According to Facebook, the early testing of the algorithm change has shown that users see 10 percent fewer pages when they removed the pages with recycled content. For marketers, this change should only reinforce the other reasons why they should be using original content for their social media posts.
The final class of posts that Facebook is targeting is also the easiest to identify as spam. Because Facebook allows users to modify the image and preview text that go with links. some users have been posting links that look like one thing, but then lead the user to a page of advertisements or other unexpected content.
Marketers should never have been engaging in this practice in the first place, so most businesses shouldn’t have anything to worry from this final wave of the News Feed cleanup.
In the end, though “link-baiting” and other tricks may seem clever, all it does is create content that only exists to get people to engage with meaningless content. With Facebook trying to make News Feeds more relevant and having to sift through hundreds of posts to find the best, it makes sense that Facebook would take actions against posts that artificially generate high engagement, that are deceptively linked, or have content that has already been posted. The changes to the News Feed algorithm will make Facebook better for everyday users and will reward marketers who produce high-quality and engaging content.