Facebook to Ban Overly Promotional Posts in News Feed

Shortly after its ban on “like-gating,” Facebook is looking to further clean up the News Feed by reducing the reach of overly promotional page posts, meaning marketers may have to get even more creative with their social strategies.

In order to keep its users happy, Facebook says, it will introduce “new volume and content controls for promotional posts, so people see more of what they want from Pages.”

According to the platform, it’s not just ads that users find “too promotional.” In fact, a lot of the offending content takes the form of posts from Pages users have liked.

What qualifies as “too promotional”? Facebook explains that this can include posts that encourage people to buy a product or install an app, posts that push people to enter promotions and sweepstakes with no real context, and posts that just reuse the exact same content from ads.

As the new guidelines take effect in January, Facebook audiences will see fewer such posts in their News Feeds. And since the competition in the News Feed is becoming fiercer, businesses that continue to use promotional page posts will see organic distribution drop significantly over time.

It’s not the first time that Facebook has changed its formula to encourage businesses to pay to play. For example, back in June of this year, the social giant defended the decline of organic reach in favor of quality and relevant content as well.

“This is pretty consistent with the direction that Facebook has been moving toward over the past few years – if you want to advertise, be prepared to pay,” says Krista Neher, social media trainer and chief executive of Boot Camp Digital. “Decreasing organic reach of promotional posts means that marketers who want to promote will have to pay.”

Neher thinks that the ban on promotional posts could be either a small change or a big change for marketers, depending on their current Facebook strategy. “If you already boost all of your posts, this isn’t necessarily going to dramatically change your strategy,” she says. “[But] if you have worked hard to earn attention through organic reach, you’ll now have to pay for promotional exposure.”

Elliott Antal, digital marketing manager at Myjive, a Charlotte-based digital marketing agency, thinks the ban on overly promotional page posts is a good move. “People follow a brand on Facebook because they want to have social conversations with the brand, instead of being sold something. But some people are using Facebook to post ads as opposed to having social conversations,” he says. “I think this change will gradually weed out people who are taking advantage of this platform.”

As a marketer who invests heavily in organic Facebook marketing, Antal admits the change will affect organic reach on Facebook. But he believes it will help draw a line between Facebook posts and Facebook ads. “I think Facebook is telling brands that if you want to sell something, buy an ad. If you just want to have social conversations with your consumers, stop using overly promotional posts,” he adds.

Antal says he’s most interested to learn who oversees the process of deciding whether a post is “overly promotional.”

“I’m curious to understand if page posts will go through the same approval process as Facebook Ads do. If so, who is the judge and jury to make the call?” he asks. “Will Facebook be spot-checking accounts like what Google is doing for SEO? You will not want to find out your posts are ‘overly promotional’ too late, and get a penalty.”

As Facebook’s new policy takes effect, marketers will have to think of new ways to ensure their posts avoid being labeled as “overly promotional.” Will the change affect your strategy?

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