facebook

May 22, 2017: “Organic social media” – a marketing method in which marketers are able to reach their target audiences without having to pay a social network to deliver any messaging — naturally offers the highest ROI for marketers, which explains this channel’s high adoption rate.

Facebook now finds itself in a situation very similar to that which Google found itself in 2011, when the high output of content farms clogged SERPs with acres of ersatz “organic” content

For users, however — and for the social networks hosting these users — the result of such high adoption is that any single newsfeed can become clogged with “empty calorie content” that promises much (usually in the form of a tantalizing, often surreal headline) but delivers little (because what’s on the other end of the URL isn’t worth the click).

The situation has gotten so bad on Facebook that the service — whose management has long denied that it’s a “media company” is starting to behave more like a conventional publication in which editorial control is routinely exerted (although this control is delegated to an algorithm, not human editors, whose sole role appears to be to “train” this algorithm to behave like a human editor).

Facebook in 2017 = Google in 2011

Facebook now finds itself in a situation very similar to that which Google found itself in 2011, when the high output of content farms clogged SERPs with so much ersatz “organic” content that a number of prominent journalists wondered whether Google was on the road to losing its utility. The result was Panda, Penguin, and other algorithmic innovations whose sole purpose was to control spammy organic content.

Last week, Facebook announced on its official blog the latest incarnation of its increased editorial control, and the news is something that marketers need to pay attention to:

“Publishers that rely on clickbait headlines should expect their distribution to decrease. Pages should avoid headlines that withhold information required to understand the content of the article and headlines that exaggerate the article to create misleading expectations. If a Page stops posting clickbait and sensational headlines, their posts will stop being impacted by this change.”

How should “organic social” marketers respond to Facebook’s crackdown?

1. Avoid specific terms triggering the downranking algorithm. While it’s unclear how Facebook’s algorithm decides whether a particular post is “clickbait,” Facebook published examples of headlines that appear to trigger down-ranking. For example, “When She Looked Under Her Couch Cushions And Saw THIS…” Headlines that exaggerate the details of a story with sensational language tend to make the story seem like a bigger deal than it really is. For example, “WOW! Ginger tea is the secret to everlasting youth. You’ve GOT to see this!”

This, of course, is a very short list that scarcely scratches the surface of clickbait’s mighty corpus, but other phrases characteristic of the clickbait genre (“You’ll never believe…,” “Your jaw will drop…,” “This is unbelievable…,” “You’ll be shocked…,” “I have NEVER seen anything like THIS…,” “Just wait until you see…,” “…I’m speechless…” should be avoided. In fact one might go so far as to suggest that spurious all-caps headlines should never be a part of any headline on Facebook, given the risk that they’ll trigger a possible “all-caps” rule in the algorithm.

Marketers who consider puffery and exaggeration to be essential elements in their marketing strategy should consider testing Facebook’s paid ad program, because at least they will know exactly why their posts have been rejected

2. If you promise something, deliver it on the landing page. While it’s not known whether Facebook’s algorithm compares the content of the headline (plus accompanying text) to what appears on the landing page, and computes whether the first appropriately complements the second, this is something that its ad system does every time an ad is entered into the system. Irrespective of the precise mechanism used to evaluate the relation of post to landing page, Facebook, on its Publisher Guidelines Page, specifically exhorts marketers to “post headlines that set appropriate expectations.” Here, Facebook advises marketers that “instead of relying on misleading headlines to intrigue the reader, share articles with accurate headlines that don’t exaggerate or sensationalize the topic and add your own voice to help drive genuine conversation around the content.”

3. Save puffery and exaggeration for paid social media. Marketers who consider puffery and exaggeration to be essential elements in their marketing strategy should consider testing Facebook’s paid ad program, because at least they will know — on a case by case basis — why exactly their posts have been rejected. And even if these posts are rejected for being “sensational,” “false and misleading,” or otherwise running afoul of Facebook’s long list of proscribed commercial messaging, at least there will be no penalty for rejected ads in the form of decreased organic reach for the marketer.

Summary
Facebook changes algorithm to battle clickbait and "empty calorie content"
Article Name
Facebook changes algorithm to battle clickbait and "empty calorie content"
Description
Facebook's recent modification of its News Feed algorithm puts marketers on notice to avoid several specific marketers of clickbait.
Author

Steve Baldwin
Follow me

Steve Baldwin

Editor-in-Chief at Didit
Steve Baldwin writes and edits technology content. He lives in Brooklyn and, once a month, conducts free wild parrot safaris there. For more info, see: BrooklynParrots.com.
Steve Baldwin
Follow me