One of the challenges of running a site that features user-generated content is ensuring the quality of the content that’s produced in shared. In the past, Facebook was content to do this by removing content that was offensive, illegal, or violated copyright laws. However, over the past year, they’ve taken an eye toward posts from business pages that they feel are spammy. Facebook announced two new changes that would affect business page posts in order to improve the quality of content.
This isn’t the first move from Facebook to curb spammy posts. Earlier this year, the company began targeting posts that improperly encouraged engagement. This newest round of changes will affect headlines and links.
“Today we’re announcing some improvements to News Feed to help people find the posts and links from publishers that are most interesting and relevant, and to continue to weed out stories that people frequently tell us are spammy and that they don’t want to see,” wrote Khalid El-Arini, a research scientist and Joyce Tang, a product specialist, in a blog post announcing the changes. “We’re making two updates, the first to reduce click-baiting headlines, and the second to help people see links shared on Facebook in the best format.”
The biggest news involves the extra scrutiny for headlines. Click-baiting headlines tease readers with information that isn’t in the article or that greatly misrepresents the content of the article. A common tactic is using a little bit of provocative text cut short with a “Click Here to Read More” to an article that doesn’t meet the reader’s expectations. A recent example I saw online involved a headline that promised “spoilers” about a character death in a popular franchise in a comic book. Reading the article contained no spoilers as it didn’t mention a character by name or even the series in question. The article was two paragraphs long and was really only a rumor that something might be happening somewhere. The provocative headline likely got many people to click to a site that had no real content to offer.
In some respects, it’s odd to attack click-baiting headlines. The reason they’re hated so much by the general public is because they’re effective. However, as was noted by Facebook, 80 percent of users said they preferred it when the headline gave an accurate preview of the article. Click-baiting is bad for a brand because people begin to associate its headlines and content with what comedian Lizz Winstead called “anticippointment”, being excited about something teased in the media that is far less pleasing than they were led to believe.
Facebook will now begin to reduce the reach of pages that use click-baiting tactics. Essentially, this will be determined by bounce rates and engagements. If a lot a people click on a headline, but a very small portion stay on the link for a while and no one likes or discusses the link, Facebook will begin to assume that click-baiting is at play. Pages that do this often enough will find their organic reach decline.
The second change is a little strange and it involves the way marketers use links with photos in their status updates. Facebook will show fewer posts where links are placed in the text portion of of a photo caption or status update. In other words, marketers should just place the link into the status box and work from there. Remember, the image and snippet text can be changed once Facebook auto-populates the link box.
The decision to reduce the number of posts where links are included with images or as part of a text based status is troublesome to retailers and marketers who use Facebook. For example, retailers often like to post pictures of their products, employees, events, etc. with a link back to the home page or landing page. Since the image size is set by Facebook when doing a link, marketers may find that their images don’t work well in the 484 x 242 pixels that all links get and the picture can’t be repositioned. Imagine trying to direct people to a link to buy a doll when the only picture you can use can’t be taller than 250 pixels.
Facebook may be aware of these limitations. In the blog posts, after explaining the news about links, they told users: “In general, we recommend that you use the story type that best fits the message that you want to tell – whether that’s a status, photo, link or video.”
For the time being, we would recommend that Facebook marketers continue to post images and links as they have in the past, especially if their fans have been liking and clicking on the posts. Adding text to give a link more context (i.e. why the information in the link is useful to the readers of the page) or using links to show people where they can buy the items they see posted in images is often the only way that posting links to Facebook makes sense.
As Facebook continues to refine its algorithms for News Feeds, marketers need to pay attention and change their strategies as necessary. While it may seem bothersome, getting marketers to stop click-baiting is good because it means they have to focus more on quality content, which is what their fans want. The new rules on the usage of links seems a little strange, but as Facebook says, marketers should continue to use the format that works the best for them.
Is Facebook worth all this trouble? Yes. Read this article with some Facebook statistics to help keep things in perspective.