content, news, publishing, socialmedia, strategy

Latest Facebook change to tackle ‘engagement bait’ – a warning to publishers

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’
content, news, publishing, socialmedia

Facebook not a publisher, but with 1.8bn users comes responsibility

An introduction from a Business Insider article:

“Axel Springer CEO Mathias Döpfner sat down with Andreas Dietrich of the Swiss publication Blick and discussed the issue of fake news and Facebook’s part in it.

“Döpfner believes Facebook should not have to sort out hoaxes from real news because it is a distributor of news — not a publisher.” Read more at

Facebook is indeed, not directly a news organisation, and clearly dealing with the sources of fake or ‘alternative’ news would be the ultimate solution.

But to ignore the amount of ‘news’ being posted, shared, and commented on by such a huge social network without acknowledging and taking some basic responsibility in blocking factually incorrect stories would be letting down it’s user base to say the least.

content, journalism, news, strategy

Worth reading: People will read your long stories on their phones (for two minutes, anyway)

Good news, publishers: People will read your long stories on their phones (for two minutes, anyway)
As publishers’ tablet dreams diminish, are smartphones picking up the slack when it comes to reading long articles online? A report out from the Pew Research Center [from May 2016] tries to answer that question, and comes away with some reassuring findings: Yes, people are willing to engage with longer content (i.e., news stories over 1,000 words) on their phones.…

Seems to be various schools of thought on this, how the length of the article affects chances of being read, or being read to the end, etc.

Underlying this question, it’s quality of the content, information or writing that really counts, especially for long-tale value.

May 6, 2016 at 02:50PM
via Instapaper

content, publishing, socialmedia

Twitter timeline ch-ch-ch-changes, where are we now?

So the rumours have come to fruition, a big change has begun arriving to our Twitter timelines, where we are shown an algorithm-driven stream of tweets as opposed to the current live feed unsullied by machines. The ‘best tweets first’ view is starting to appear as an option for web viewers, although users need to enable it under Settings for now – this will most likely change to the default at some point, with app updates no doubt incoming.

I’m unsure as to what the outcome will be in terms of use of the service, but #RIPTwitter was/is probably a bit premature.

From a Mashable post on the change:

The company pushed out an update Wednesday that makes its much-talked-about timeline redesign official. The new feature, which is live on Twitter’s app and website now, will show tweets that are sorted based on relevancy, rather than chronology, at the top of your timeline.

For journalists and marketers, there are other ways to view Twitter in a more focused or unfiltered fashion, Twitter lists and Tweetdeck being two solid options, see more here from FirstDraft: 10 ways local journalists can better cover their patch.

It is an inevitable conclusion to the problem of Twitter not drawing enough new users, alongside changes including the Favourites signified by stars morphing into hearts, meaning people were now ‘liking’ updates Facebook-style.

This was much to the annoyance of some (myself included) at the perception and way people had originally been using the favourite option, myself regularly as a means of bookmarking tweets to come back and view later. But we got over it and moved on, we may well do the same regarding the timeline rebirth.

Facebook users still use the service despite being delivered an artificially molded stream of updates based on various parameters. Although, via Mathew Ingram on

A survey by researchers from the University of Illinois showed that 60% of users didn’t even know that Facebook filters their feed at all.

But as Mathew Ingram points out aboutalgorithms being helpful for some,they come with risks:

By definition, algorithmic filtering means that you are not the one who is choosing what to see and not see… And while this may be helpful—because of the sheer volume of content out there—it comes with biases and risks

It’s never perfect, content of real interest fails to appear high up in people’s timelines, but we survive, and there is the option to view by ‘Most Recent’ under the Settings options.

But more widely what happens if this doesn’t work? A sale on the cards surely, and then a more uncertain future… the danger is, will it kill what makes Twitter ‘fun’ – more from Mashable?:

Twitter’s struggle, though, is that most people are not like me; they never got over platform’s messy nature. I’ve always believed that hashtags, which arrived after Twitter’s launch, were an excellent organizing principle. When Twitter figured out how to display trending hashtags, I thought it was a godsend. But it wasn’t enough for regular people who, perhaps, still associated the hashtag with telephones.

Twitter has been trying for years to make the service more obvious and accessible, right up to the new Moments, a feature they’ve force fed to existing users and one that has failed to inspire new ones.

In theory at least, the timeline change helps authenticated blue-ticked profiles which should benefit from being more prominently displayed (presuming they are tweeting interesting/topical content in the right way, nudge nudge!)

Blue pill or red pill: Which timeline is for you?

I just hope that switching between the algorithm and live timeline view is relatively easy.

Timeline control details from support:


  1. Log in to your account on and go to your Account settings page.
  2. Under Content, look for Timeline and toggle the box next to Show me the best Tweets first to change the setting.

Twitter for iOS:

  1. On your profile, tap the gear icon  and select Settings.
  2. Tap the account whose settings you’d like to adjust.
  3. Under Timeline, tap Timeline personalization.
  4. Next to Show me the best Tweets first, tap to turn it off.

Twitter for Android:

  1. Tap the overflow icon 
  2. Tap Settings.
  3. Tap Timeline.
  4. Next to Show me the best Tweets first, uncheck the box to turn it off.

Further reading: 5 facts you need to know, from

content, news, publishing, socialmedia, tools

Pablo: your new favourite social media friendly image tool

I had briefly used Buffer’s Pablo social media-friendly graphic creation tool Pablo in 2015. It has options ready for best dimensions for using on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest or Instagram.

But with the addition of the new Pablo (sadly only) Chrome extension, getting a tweet+pic with overlaid text was roughly 1-2 minute’s work.

Find an image (or upload your own/use from stock images within Pablo), then let the extension open it inside Pablo (no need to login at this point).

Inside Pablo’s tidy interface you can add/edit text and tweak the graphic layout using a few options. But it all looks professional and works well.

Once you are happy, you can share immediately or embargo using Buffer’s algorithm, logging in to Buffer with your Twitter login.

You can also download the final image for use later.

A couple of examples:

A story via The Scotsman, a tale of flooding in Scotland

And an Bronze Age archaeological find in Cambridgeshire, via the Peterborough Telegraph


community, content, news

Web article pages, blog posts: leave no dead ends

So, you want to keep people on your website after they’ve ready the story they found/saw in a social media feed/were sent by a friend etc.?

Well, my tips on audience retention, add value to articles/posts, attach relevant links and try and engage your readers.

But leave no dead ends, while they have found you, give them more, ideally related content – don’t make it easy for a visitor to move on to another site. Here’s what I do on lead stories at the Peterborough Telegraph

Peterborough Telegraph web article page with annotations

  • Link, directly to meeting agendas, related official documents – don’t just link to the homepage and make people find it.
  • If there will be further debate or coverage, detail this, link to reporter social media accounts.
  • Add backstory links, related archive articles that add context, history, fill in gaps.
  • Finally, don’t forget to encourage engagement wherever relevant: ask a question, list ways to get in touch or third-party platforms where they can continue the debate/add their comments, e.g. Twitter, Facebook.
  • * Clearly not all stories will have a backstory, or related links, offer much in the way of engagement, or relevant official sites but part of the skill is in spotting these opportunities.