December 21, 2017Published by: Robert Haslam

Facebook is improving the feed. Like if you agree.

To end 2017, Facebook is making some changes that will impact the strategy some publishers use to drive engagement. Facebook, as with the other social networks, is constantly tweaking its algorithms to try and improve the experience of using the network. Done right, the algorithms help ensure that you, the user, see content that will interest you the most.

One of the ways that Facebook’s machine learning surfaces relevant content is looking at the level of engagement on posts. A popular way to measure engagement is to look at the level of click-throughs, likes, tagging, comments or shares that published content receives. It’s the most public way of being able to measure whether content works, or doesn’t work - and it’s one of the datasets Facebook looks for.

However, it was pretty easy to game. And it has a name: Engagement bait.

The social media giant has announced that it is going start demoting posts that try to bait users to engage with them. If your strategy for social includes posts that try to get people to engage with them (by literally telling people to do some form of engagement), it’s time to rethink your strategy.

What is less clear is whether posts like the one to the left, which try to game the system by having text in an image, will fall foul of Facebook’s machine learning changes.

Because Facebook has had a year where its algorithms and ‘authenticity’ of posts`have been under intense scrutiny, it is committed to making 2018 more authentic.

So now, Facebook’s machine learning will look to detect engagement bait and show them less in News Feed. If you’ve been employing this tactic, now is the time to stop. We’re not just saying this as a team of specialists that have advised against engagement bait, but also because it just won’t work anymore.

It’s not just engagement baiting that Facebook is trying to stop, the company is also working to demote clickbait headlines (sorry George Takei) and links to low-quality web page experiences (sorry Russia).

Quality, then, appears to be Facebook’s big New Year’s resolution.

So if you are a publisher, or social media agency that has employed the tactic of engagement bait, it’s time to rethink how you approach Facebook posts. Engagement bait is low hanging fruit that we’ve witnessed plenty of companies try to use. While it briefly seemed like a good idea to easily let users engage with posts, it quickly descended into a way to game Facebook’s algorithms.

Facebook has spent the last year dealing with the fallout from the amount of clickbait and false stories that get shared by real (and fake) users. Many of the recent changes and ongoing tweaks to the machine learning will help create a safer, more trustworthy platform.

But it's also focused on creating an environment where good content thrives, and users feel safe.

LIKE this article if you’re excited for Christmas. SHARE it if you’re more excited for New Years. LOVE it if you can’t wait for your sprouts.

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