Babar Khan Javed
Dec 20, 2017

Facebook to battle engagement baiting with demotions

Facebook has taken corrective steps to punish brands trying to game its algorithm for ranking high in newsfeeds.

Facebook to battle engagement baiting with demotions

Advertisers and agencies that publish Facebook posts which attempt to attract specific actions such as comments, reactions, or shares will be demoted.

In a blog post announcing the crackdown, Henry Silverman and Lin Huang from Facebook's engineering team said that any post by a Facebook page that attempts to engage its audience or target segment with spam will be penalized and demoted.

Spammy posts have been identified as those that attempt to generate a specific action from a Facebook user such as a vote, tag, like, share, specific comment, or a reaction.

According to the announcement, such posts are considered spam because they try to game the algorithm to raise the ranking of a post in a users newsfeed. The demotions are meant to promote meaningful and authentic conversations, encouraging advertisers and agencies to design posts that seek to build relationships with Facebook users, instead of generating a one-off reaction.

"We need to look at the bigger picture behind this update from Facebook," said Avtar Ram Singh, the head of strategy at Falcon Agency in Singapore. "Just this year, Facebook's taken a stand against click-bait headlines and links, fake news, video click-bait where people super-imposed a "play button" on an image duping people into thinking it was a video, and now engagement-bait."

Singh reminds that Facebook has sent a series of signals over the last few years to marketers that are obsessed with tricking their consumers rather than serving them. 

"The root of this problem is that we're in an era of digital marketing where a ton of marketers are obsessed with vanity metrics because that's what they want to be held accountable for," Singh adds. "When the marketing department is obsessed with clicks, likes and website traffic - they don't need to create relevant and quality content. They resort to these tricks to meet their objectives, and call it success. The fallout is that people being served this content complain, mark them as spam and Facebook has to react to it. It's a vicious cycle. When marketers hold themselves accountable, or are held accountable, for tangible, business metrics - they'll stop resorting to these tricks because these tricks will no longer help meet their objectives and KPIs. That's the real fix. It's a systemic problem, and until it's rectified - platforms have no choice but to police these tactics, as they should."

The crackdown will not impact ordinary users that make posts which ask people for help, advice, or recommendations. Plea posts 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.

Advertisers and agencies that violate the updated Facebook Newsfeed Guidelines will risk their ad spend and content schedules facing delays and extended blocks from future posts.

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