On August 25, Facebook announced an update to its News Feed that intends to hide (i.e punish) content that (1) is found to be “Click-bait” and (2) uses embedded links within a status update or photo caption instead of the native, link-formatting feature. If left unheeded, Facebook updates (both from personal accounts and professional Pages) could suffer a drastic decrease in organic reach. But why Facebook? Why?
First, it’s important to understand this: “The goal of News Feed is to deliver the right stories to the right people at the right time so they don’t miss anything important and relevant to them.” - Erich Owens, Facebook Software Engineer
As outlined in the original announcement, click-bait posts are described as content that encourage users to visit a link, but then takes them to a website filled with ads, spam and irrelevant information. Based on the how quickly it takes a user to return to Facebook after her or she clicks a link, Facebook can determine whether or not that link’s content was useful. If the user doesn’t return to facebook immediately, that content is considered valuable. If a user bounces back to Facebook shortly after clicking a link, that link will be weighted as “click-bait” and its reach within the News Feed will be reduced. What can users and Pages do about it? Continue to post relevant, high quality content that your audience actually cares about.
Not much of a change, right? Only the pages that take advantage of users, consequently damaging the integrity of the News Feed, will be punished.
The second part of the update tells us how NOT to share a link. In summary, Facebook is asking (read: demanding) users to rely on the native link-formatting within the News Feed to share a link as opposed to posting an embedded link within a status or photo caption. This change is meant to provide more context associated with a link before a user actually clicks it. Additionally, the native link-formatting was shown to provide a better user experience for Facebook’s mobile users—all 1.07 billion of them.
“With this update, we will prioritize showing links in the link-format, and show fewer links shared in captions or status updates.” - Khalid El-Arini, Research Scientist
As a social manager, when I first read the update, I was a little concerned. Not about the click-bait penalization—those strategies are unethical, unprofessional and degrade everything that makes social an incredible informational tool—but more so about the prioritized link formatting.
Up until now, I would often use stand-alone graphics and images with a shortened URL to post updates on Facebook. I, along with many others, know that visual media performs better on social, and Facebook’s link formatting would sometimes generate unappealing images from the linked website. Yes, there is an option to change the image the link-formatting generates, but I felt this would detract from the quality of the image, a particular concern for those Pages dependent on high-quality visual content like photography blogs, restaurants and other B2C brands.
Again, this is an effort from Facebook to optimize its News Feed by dissolving misleading content. What’s wrong with an image paired with an embedded link? Not much to the end user, but its like throwing a wrench into the delicate “EdgeRank machine” Facebook depends on to deliver relevant updates, disguising the content of a link with a pretty picture. Posted stand-alone photos will be fine. Photos with a link will be hidden.
What do you think about the update? Will this hurt or harm your social efforts on Facebook? Share your thoughts!