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Facebook Cracking Down on News Feed Spam



Credit: Matt Harnack / Facebook
Credit: Matt Harnack / Facebook

Ask a search marketer if they think Facebook is essential to an online marketing strategy, and, chances are, they’ll say yes. And that’s exactly why search marketers everywhere are rethinking how to use Facebook in light of the recent announcement from the company about business spam.

Facebook, like Google, is now making changes to its algorithm to ensure its users get the best content – most relevant, newest and most original. It makes sense.

Facebook, however, isn’t just concerned with quality content – it also wants to be profitable. Why give away free advertising to businesses when they can charge them for it? By reducing a business’s visibility in Facebook, the business is forced to consider paid advertising in order to get the impact they want and need.

What Is Facebook Targeting?

It appears those most affected by the algorithm changes are those involved in three particular – and commonly used – marketing strategies:

1. Asking for Likes, Shares and Comments

Asking for likes, shares and comments in order to promote products isn’t just common, it’s expected. By getting likes, shares and comments, organic posts or photos were showing up in newsfeeds and on Pages, reaching a larger audience – without the company having to pay for it. And this has been going on for years.

Until now, there has been no reason for businesses and search marketers to think twice about this tactic.

Facebook, however, is now labeling this common practice as “like-baiting.” And if you do it, chances are your business or website now won’t be showing up in users’ newsfeeds. This means if you’re trying to reach your target audience organically through Facebook, you’re going to have a much more difficult time doing so.

Facebook is saying users are reporting these so-called “like-baiting” posts as being, on average, 15% less relevant than others with a comparable number of likes, shares and comments. From the point-of-view of Facebook, it makes sense they’d want to crack down on this practice in order to provide users with a more relevant experience. After all they want users to find content that matters to them. Otherwise what’s the point?

2. Frequently Re-Circulated Content

In addition to “like-baiting,” Facebook is now making efforts to limit the amount of content that is being re-circulated on News Feeds. Going viral used to be a golden egg search marketers could hope for. Now it holds much less power.

Before when content would go viral, it would often happen in waves. Every few months, it would go viral again. Facebook considers this content less relevant to users. According to Facebook, users are complaining about re-circulated content.

They’re also complaining about content that isn’t going viral, but is being re-posted by the Pages. Taking the same content and re-posting it will now get you off the News Feeds. Testing so far has shown users are hiding 10% fewer stories from Pages when this update is in place.

3. Spammy Links

Spammy links come in many forms. Some posts have confusing formatting, and users are “tricked” into clicking on a link. Others say they link to something of relevance, such as a photo album, but when users click on the link, they end up on a website chocked full of ads.

How is Facebook determining which links are spammy? They’re tracking the frequency of how often the original post is liked or shared with friends after the links have been clicked. And this can be a problem.

If businesses are posting legit content, but it’s just not getting the number of likes or shares it needs, it could end up being flagged by Facebook. What is a business to do? Ask users to like and share their posts – exactly what Facebook is saying they no longer want businesses to do.

Who Is Going to Feel the Facebook Crackdown?

Facebook claims that the majority of Pages aren’t involved in posting News Feed spam. So most shouldn’t be majorly impacted by these algorithm changes. In fact it’s being predicted that legit Pages may even experience a slight increase in distribution.

On the other hand, those Pages that often – and intentionally – post spam will be affected. They can expect a decrease of their organic reach over the next several months.

What is clear to search marketers is the fact Facebook is actively taking steps to reduce the exposure of businesses in Pages in order to get those businesses to advertise instead. So, what should online marketers do so they’re not victims of these new Facebook changes?

What You Need to Do Now

1. Don’t ask for Likes, Shares and Comments

Now’s the time to get crafty. You need to figure out a way to ask for likes, shares and comments without explicitly doing so. If you outright ask, the content will be flagged, and you’ll get significantly less exposure.

2. Don’t Share the Same Content Over and Over

When you’re trying to promote an upcoming event, this can be tricky. It’s going to take more work now. Instead of posting the same content, new content will have to be created each time. That way the same event gets promoted without being flagged as content being shared over and over again.

3. Don’t Mislead with Links

Out of all of them, this should be the easiest for businesses to do. Don’t mislead with your links. If you have a link, it needs to go where you say it goes. Make sure your links are obvious and won’t be mistakenly clicked on when users have no interest in doing so.

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