Facebook’s fight against spam and clickbait and what it means for advertisers
Facebook has overhauled its News Feed algorithm in response to critics -- including advertisers -- questioning the quality of the environment. Contributor Justin Freid explains how marketers should shift their strategies in response.
It is no secret Facebook has made many changes over the past few months to eliminate low-quality content from its News Feed. At first, the changes were directly related to eliminating content that could be seen as “engagement bait.”
From there, Facebook communicated with the public on upcoming changes to its algorithm by telling advertisers, “We built Facebook to help people stay connected and bring us closer together with the people that matter to us. That’s why we’ve always put friends and family at the core of the experience.”
These moves may be an effort to head off concerns expressed by big spenders like Unilever, with its $9.8 billion annual media budget, which has warned both Facebook and Google that it will stop advertising on platforms that provide havens for “toxic” content — fake news, extremist, racist, sexist and exploitative content.
As an advertiser or a business that has depended on Facebook’s News Feed as a core channel for customer engagement, how should you use the platform going forward?
Pay to play
Across social platforms, businesses have always had to promote their content through paid advertising to stay in front of their customers consistently. With Facebook’s recent algorithm changes, this will only increase the need for business to utilize Facebook’s advertising platform. Across many industries, we have seen increased adoption of Facebook advertising due to the ability to finely target users based on the demographic and behavioral data available.
Brands that have previously seen good organic reach within the News Feed will need to assess what they’re losing due to this shift and determine if capturing the lost audiences is worth additional investment. With Facebook already a mainstay in many brands’ media plans, a business may decide to shift budget previously allocated to other channels.
Changes to requirements for Facebook advertisers
As we’ve all seen in the news over the past few months, advertising and the validity of those advertising on Facebook have come into question, specifically around the election. Prior to the changes that went into effect in late 2017, anyone could set up an account and run right-rail ads. Over the past few months, Facebook has continued to put steps in place to eliminate fraudulent advertisers.
The first change is that Facebook now requires advertisements to be connected to a page. While a page can be set up pretty quickly, this is an extra move that needs to be taken.
Secondly, Facebook has been actively testing a new feature in Canada where all of the advertisements running alongside that Facebook page can be accessed and viewed. A repository of the ads will be available at all times for those visiting the page.
This is intended to be a large deterrent, as it could prevent advertisers from running negative or controversial advertisements they do not want tied back to their brand or business. Facebook has committed to rolling this out in the US this year.
The content you can promote has changed
While many businesses promote content that’s relevant to their audiences, some advertisers take advantage of users, pushing what Facebook has identified as “engagement bait.” The Facebook algorithm, while constantly improving, still heavily weights Likes from your friends as a major factor.
Unfortunately, many people take advantage of this and use content that’s considered spam or can be identified as “LikeBait.” An example of this would be a post that says, “Like us if you love chocolate!” Knowing that most everyone does love chocolate and that Likes gained in such a way don’t actually reflect the quality of the content, this is a practice Facebook is looking to eliminate, Facebook is calling this and similar actions that bait users to share or vote “Engagement Bait” and will demote such posts and pages within the News Feed.
Generally speaking, Facebook will leverage an advanced machine-learning algorithm to police the News Feed. This technology was built based on tens of thousands of posts that were reviewed and flagged by humans. By applying machine learning to this data, Facebook feels confident it will improve the content you see every day. As an advertiser, know that this type of content will be flagged almost immediately, preventing it from being promoted.
How to move forward
If you have a business that depends on organic posts for visibility, you may need to revisit your strategy. There will undoubtedly be fewer opportunities for you to appear within the News Feed, so to continue to reach Facebook’s audience, you’ll need to adopt some of the tactics I’ve outlined here.