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Facebook Seeks to Clean Up News Feeds by Targeting Like-Baiting Posts

  |  April 11, 2014   |  Comments

In an effort to tidy up users' News Feeds, Facebook is targeting brand Pages that explicitly ask for likes, shares, and comments to promote their posts.

When brands post to Facebook, it's very common, and almost expected at this point, for them to ask for likes, shares, and comments to promote their products. This is a well-known practice, and it's been going on for years. But the social media giant is planning to crack down on these calls to action, calling the practice "like-baiting." Now, if a business or website asks for likes, shares, or comments, it will be much less likely that Facebook will show the post in users' News Feeds.

Facebook has been severely limiting exposure for businesses that are trying to reach out to their customer base through Facebook organically. Asking for likes, shares, and comments meant that those organic posts or images that businesses were sharing could potentially reach a larger audience without the company having to pay for it. After all, whenever someone shares something it can show up on a Facebook page and in the News Feeds of friends. But while Facebook says it is responding to user requests, the fact is that now if businesses want exposure on the social network, they are going to have to pay for it.

According to Facebook, users report that like-baiting stories are on average 15 percent less relevant than other stories that have a similar number of likes, comments, and shares. So the social network is cracking down on the practice because it feels it leads to a less enjoyable user experience, as it edges out content people do care about.

Facebook does say that their goal is not to impact pages that are "genuinely trying to encourage discussion among their fans," but rather to focus on Pages that frequently post explicitly asking for likes, comments, and shares.

The company is also looking at reducing the amount of recirculated content that's visible on the News Feed. It's not that uncommon for some viral content to go viral again every few months, and Facebook finds that this repeated visibility is less relevant to the users and users are more likely to complain about it. Additionally, some Pages share the same content over and over again, such as sharing the same news story for their business or the same event information. In their testing, Facebook found that reducing this frequently recirculated content causes users to hide 10 percent fewer stories from Pages overall.

Facebook is also adding tools to catch spammy links that are being shared through the site. Often, posts use inaccurate language or formatting in order to confuse users into clicking a link. However, how Facebook is planning to flag these links could end up labeling great content as being spammy simply because it's not being shared or liked often. So to prevent this from happening, it's likely that businesses will encourage users to share and like their posts, despite Facebook changing their algorithm to catch exactly this behavior.

All in all, Facebook is clearly trying to reduce the footprint of businesses in Pages even further, to encourage those businesses to advertise to get the reach they need.

So what should business marketers do in Pages do in order to not get caught up in the new changes?

Don't Ask for Likes, Comments, or Shares
Unfortunately this is currently a habit for a lot of businesses, but doing so will reduce that content's exposure significantly. However, expect to see companies searching for new, creative ways to encourage likes and shares without explicitly asking for them.

Don't Repeatedly Share the Same Content
This can be hard for marketers or businesses trying to promote an event. It may require them to create new content, even if they want to promote the same thing, so that it won't be seen as sharing the same content over and over.

Don't Use Misleading Links
Ensure links go to exactly the content that marketers and businesses are saying they will. Facebook specifically cites Pages that are sending users to a page full of ads instead of a photo gallery, for instance. So make sure links are not spamming and are accurate.

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Jennifer Slegg

Jennifer Slegg began as a freelance writer, and turned to search engine optimization and writing content for the web in 1998. She has created numerous content-rich sites in niche markets and works with many clients on content creation, strategy, and monetization. She writes about many search industry and social media topics on her blog, JenniferSlegg.com and is a frequent speaker at search industry conferences on SEO, content marketing and content monetization. Acknowledged as the leading expert on the Google AdSense contextual advertising program, she runs JenSense, a blog dealing exclusively with contextual advertising. She is also the founder and editor of The SEM Post. She is known by many as her handle Jenstar on various webmaster forums.

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