Another week, another Facebook change, but this “Page-level demotion” should be significant for publishers, as the battle against fake news rounds upon ‘engagment bait’.

Facebook will “…begin implementing stricter demotions for Pages that systematically and repeatedly use engagement bait to artificially gain reach in News Feed.”, with changes rolling out over the next few weeks.

So now is the time to adapt and “avoid inadvertently using engagement bait in their posts.”

Headline writing and related social posts just got harder for some publishers and some publishing strategies just took a hit.

Potential impact

Publishers using “engagement bait tactics in their posts should expect their reach on these posts to decrease.

“Pages that repeatedly share engagement bait posts will see more significant drops in reach.”

“Pages should avoid headlines that withhold information required to understand what the content of the article is and headlines that exaggerate the article to create misleading expectations.”

Facebook are directing publishers to “focus on posting relevant and meaningful stories that do not use engagement bait tactics.”

This is where it might get hazy, the line between one man’s ‘engagement tactic’ using an element of teasing the reader or highlighting a keyword or name to catch their eye amongst the unending stream of content, can be another’s murky and misleading clickbait.

One strategy, of withholding elements of a story in aheadline, might have to be rethought: “People expect the stories in their feed to be meaningful to them. When the headline of a story is missing information, people tend to find that misleading, sensational and spammy.”, although how Facebook will know if this has occured is an interesting point.

Do’s and don’ts for Facebook posting

More detail from Facebook on how they suggest publishers approach posting on the platform – Facebook will begin implementing stricter demotions for Pages that systematically and repeatedly use engagement bait to artificially gain reach in News Feed – more from News Feed Guidelines:

DO’s of Facebook publishing:

Continue to publish your work to Facebook, personalising the message to your readers, creating engaging posts – ways to do this include:

  • Ask a question about the subject matter of the story to encourage commenting
  • Pick out a key quote from the body of the story that will compliment the headline
  • Ensure your headline/post encourages readers to click rather than giving the full story – but DON’T stray into click-bait headlines (see below)
  • Continue to publish posts that ask people for help, advice, or recommendations, such as circulating a missing child report, raising money for a cause, or asking for travel tips – these will not be adversely impacted by the Facebook update.
  • Ask people to ‘Spread the word’ rather than share
  • Remind people to ‘Tell a friend’ or ‘Warn a loved one’
  • Ensure you upload an image to your Facebook post to ensure a widescreen preview rather than a thumbnail picture.

DON’TS of Facebook publishing:

  • Publish headlines that withhold information intentionally leave out crucial details or mislead people, forcing them to click to find out the answer. For example, “When She Looked Under Her Couch Cushions And Saw THIS…”
  • Publish 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!
  • Ask readers to ‘Tag a friend who would do this’ as Facebook see this as ‘Tag Baiting
  • Ask readers to comment or react in a certain way – Facebook sees this as ‘Comment Baiting’ or ‘Vote Baiting’
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