Facebook is cracking down on what it calls “engagement baiting,” the practice of encouraging people to provide likes, shares and other reactions to game its news feed algorithm. By soliciting engagement, marketers can increase their reach, Facebook states.
The engagement baiting technique includes:
- vote baiting or asking people to vote on topics with a like or other interaction
- react baiting or requesting an interaction to a post as in “Like this if you’re an Aries or Love this if you’re a Leo to find true love!”
- share baiting as in “Share with 10 friends for a chance to win a … “
- tag baiting such as “tag friends who look like …”
- comment baiting as in “comment yes if you …”
Some Pages will be Demoted
Facebook will demote posts from people and Pages that use engagement bait starting next week, meaning the posts will appear less in news feeds. In addition, its algorithm will demote Pages that systematically and repeatedly use engagement bait. It will introduce the update over the next several weeks to give publishers time to adjust and avoid inadvertently including engagement bait in posts.
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, will not be adversely impacted by this update.
Marketers employing these engagement tactics probably consider them harmless and perhaps even creative, despite Facebook’s negative terminology. But Facebook calls them spammy and contrary to its goal of seeking authentic communications. Its crackdown on engagement bait is in line with its efforts to combat clickbait headlines and links to low-quality web pages, it says. Marketers may wish to review Facebook’s publisher guidelines.
Significant Implications for Marketers
The algorithm update will have “significant implications” for social media marketing, says Andrew Hutchinson at Social Media Today. The “tag a mate” posts in particular have proliferated recently, Hutchinson notes. Whole pages are devoted to encouraging people to tag friends and the pages typically generate plenty of engagement.
“It’s a simple way to link up with friends – but then again, it’s not exactly inspiring conversation, which is what Facebook would prefer users do,” Hutchinson notes. “No doubt some of these Pages are in for a Christmas headache.”
Facebook claims it’s cracking down on the tactic in response to user complaints and a desire for authentic communications. Marketers might suspect the move is part of Facebook’s ongoing effort to limit the reach of brands and promote advertising as a viable option. That effort culminated in a test that segregated page posts to its new Explore News Feed.
The update may also be in response to recent research that investigates if spending time on social media is bad for us. Academic research finds that passively consuming social posts while not interacting with others may increase unhappiness. In response, Facebook is trying to promote realistic, meaningful engagement.
Bottom Line: Facebook’s crackdown on engagement baiting will squash the marketing efforts of many brands. Some marketers will have an unhappy New Year if the network demotes their Facebook Pages and removes their posts from news feeds.