Facebook to punish posts that ask for ‘likes’ and shares

The platform is addressing user complaints that newsfeeds contain spam and other unwanted content. Marketers must craft their message with care to avoid offending the algorithms.

Some calls to action are no longer welcome on Facebook.

The social media giant has introduced new code to penalize posts that it determines to be spam or “engagement bait.” Now posts that explicitly ask for “likes” instead of offering desirable content will have their reach downgraded by the platform.

In a post in its newsroom, Facebook wrote:

People have told us that they dislike spammy [sic] posts on Facebook that goad them into interacting with likes, shares, comments, and other actions. For example, “LIKE this if you’re an Aries!” This tactic, known as “engagement bait,” seeks to take advantage of our News Feed algorithm by boosting engagement in order to get greater reach. So, starting this week, we will begin demoting individual posts from people and Pages that use engagement bait.


The guidelines for what kinds of language will land a post in Facebook hell are vague.

Facebook has said some types of content will not be subject to the new rules.

TechCrunch wrote:

Facebook did specify that there are some exceptions to this clampdown, and that includes examples like a missing child report, raising money for a cause, or asking for travel tips, to quote the company directly.

The crackdown itself is led by a machine learning model that the social network said has been fed “hundreds of thousands of posts” to detect different kinds of engagement bait.

Marketers wanting to avoid having their posts demoted would do well to stick to content that users want, rather than trying to game the system.

How much time do marketers have to change their ways?

TechCrunch says it’s not that long:

Starting in a couple of weeks, offenders will have the total reach on all of their posts reduced if their content is begging or baiting users to interact. As you’d expect, serial offenders will be hit hardest.

But, Facebook is extending an olive branch and — initially, at least — engagement baiters can earn their original reach back with good behavior, i.e. less of the sludge and ‘better’ content all round.

Some marketers may be reevaluating their Facebook strategy and even reconsidering their overall investment in Facebook. Although the social media juggernaut is the No. 1 platform across the widest swath of the general public, its efforts to remove some content from its site could leave marketers and publishers in the lurch.

Recode argues that Facebook’s tendency to suppress some publishers’ reach on its platform is nothing new.

It writes:

Facebook tweaks its algorithm all the time to prioritize or de-prioritize certain types of content. Just like week Facebook announced an algorithm tweak intended to show users more video, and in the past, it’s cracked down on other types of spammy posts, like clickbait or links that sed [sic] users to websites full of ads .

It’s unclear if Facebook’s effort to eliminate spam is actually working — the company doesn’t share any metrics around spam content and whether its gone down as a result of its algorithm changes. On one hand, it continues to tweak the algorithm to fight spam, which means the problem still exists in some form. But considering Facebook has a ton of control over what people can and cannot see in News Feed, it’s probably safe to assume there’s less spam than before.

Facebook is also changing how users can remove spam from their news feed with a feature it is calling “snooze,” under which users can unfollow an account or page for 30 days.

It wrote in a separate blog post:

Seeing too many photos of your uncle’s new cat? Is your friend tempting you with endless photos of ramen on her Japan trip? It turns out, you’re not alone. We’ve heard from people that they want more options to determine what they see in News Feed and when they see it. With Snooze, you don’t have to unfollow or unfriend permanently, rather just stop seeing someone’s posts for a short period of time. The people, Pages, and groups you snooze will not be notified. You will be notified before the Snooze period is about to end and the setting can also be reversed at any time.

The moves come amid criticism that the platform has abdicated its duty to remove fake news and other offensive content from circulation.

TechCrunch wrote:

Facebook is, of course, still answering tougher question about the overall impact that its service is having on society across the world. In addition to explaining how Russian actors used the site to try to manipulate the U.S. general election and the UK’s Brexit vote, it is also being criticized from former executives who accuse it of “destroying how society works.”

How will these changes affect your social media strategies, Ragan/PR Daily readers?

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