Facebook announced even more changes to its News Feed algorithm today, aimed at "cleaning up News Feed spam". Facebook will be targeting three specific types of posts, and stop showing them in the News Feed: like-baiting, frequently circulated content, and spammy links.
Do you think Facebook's changes of late have actually improved the News Feed experience? Share your thoughts in the comments.
If Facebook is actually able to execute this well, then the news isn't so bad. Organic reach for Page posts is already on its deathbed, and these changes are actually targeting content that few will probably miss from their News Feeds. If it's not executed well, Facebook could be showing some of your legitimate posts to even less people.
"The vast majority of publishers on Facebook are not posting feed spam so should not be negatively impacted by these changes, and, if anything, may see a very small increase in News Feed distribution," the company says in the announcement. Emphasis added.
It's that "if anything" part that's a little worrisome. But again, organic reach is already nearly evaporated for most Pages, so it's kind of like "who cares?" at this point. The real damage is already done.
A little more about these three types of content Facebook is targeting now...
Like-baiting is essentially the type of post that explicitly asks or tells users to like, comment, or share the post. I'm pretty sure Facebook has indicated that this type of thing would get hurt in the past, but I guess they mean it this time.
"People often respond to posts asking them to take an action, and this means that these posts get shown to more people, and get shown higher up in News Feed," Facebook says. "However, when we survey people and ask them to rate the quality of these stories, they report that like-baiting stories are, on average, 15% less relevant than other stories with a comparable number of likes, comments and shares. Over time, these stories lead to a less enjoyable experience of Facebook since they drown out content from friends and Pages that people really care about."
Matthew Ingram at GigaOm makes a good point: "There’s no question that many, perhaps even most, Facebook users would dislike this content intensely and vote to have it removed from their News Feed — except perhaps for younger users, who often enjoy that sort of thing, in part because it irritates adults. But I can think of other examples of content that might be considered like-bait that I saw friends willingly share, including photos of people fighting cancer who were trying to get a certain number of likes, and so on. That kind of thing may not be “high quality” content, but some people clearly enjoy it. "
The update, Facebook says, won't impact Pages "genuinely trying to encourage discussion". Those Pages should still see the minuscule amount of reach they're already getting.
By "frequently circulated content," Facebook means instances where photos or videos are uploaded over and over again.
"We’ve found that people tend to find these instances of repeated content less relevant, and are more likely to complain about the Pages that frequently post them," Facebook says. "We are improving News Feed to de-emphasize these Pages, and our early testing shows that this change causes people to hide 10% fewer stories from Pages overall."
Finally, Facebook considers spammy links to be those that use "inaccurate language or formatting to try and trick people into clicking through to a website that contains only ads or a combination of frequently circulated content and ads."
"For instance, often these stories claim to link to a photo album but instead take the viewer to a website with just ads," Facebook explains.
It says it can better detect these types of links by measuring how frequently people choose to like the original post or share it with their friends.
The publishers being targeted here will see their reach decrease over the next few months, Facebook says.
Like I said, for the most part, people aren't going to miss any of this type of content if Facebook's algorithm does its job right. These are mostly shady ways to get engagement. You're better off posting interesting photos.
Is Facebook on the right track with its News Feed? Share your thoughts.