According to Facebook, the goal of News Feed is to show high quality posts to the right users at the right time. To achieve this, the social networking giant frequently introduces changes to its News Feed algorithm. The latest changes were introduced on April 10, 2014 to fight spam. This series of improvements mainly aims at reducing stories that users find spammy and don’t want to see. Most of these stories came from the pages that deliberately try and game Facebook for their branding purposes. Facebook’s recent moves are a strong warning for online marketers to fine tune their social media marketing strategies so that their content doesn’t end up as spam. The new algorithm changes target three types of feed spam behavior – Like-baiting, Frequently Circulated Content and Spammy Links. Let’s take a look into such spam and how online marketers can optimize their Facebook marketing in the context of these changes.
If a post explicitly asks the people who read News Feeds to like, comment or share that post so as to get extra distribution beyond what it would normally receive, this is ‘Like-baiting’.
Facebook users often respond to the posts that ask them to take an action and in this way those posts will reach more people and eventually show higher up in News Feed. However, the survey conducted by Facebook which asked people to rate the quality of these stories revealed the following
- Like-baiting stories are 15% less relevant (on average) than other stories having comparable likes, comments and shares.
- These stories will eventually become less enjoyable for people since they obscure content from their friends and Pages they really care about
To curb this like baiting, the social networking giant launched a new improvement that detects these stories better and helps to ensure that they are not seen more prominently in News Feeds than relevant stories from friends and other Pages that people really like. This improvement will not impact Pages that are genuinely trying to encourage discussion with fans and will focus initially on Pages that frequently generate posts that explicitly ask for likes, comments and shares.
Frequently Circulated Content
Though both people and Pages on Facebook reshare great content frequently, the social media giant found that sometimes photos or videos are uploaded over and over again on Facebook and people see this repeated content as less relevant. It was also found that users are more likely to complain about the Pages that promote this practice. The latest News Feed improvement reduces the significance of such Pages and it was shown in Facebook’s early testing that this change led users to hide 10% fewer stories from Pages overall.
Certain stories in News Feed use inaccurate language or formatting to entice users to click through to a website which contains only ads (ad farms) or a combo of frequently circulated content and ads. As Facebook points out, these stories may promise the user to link to a photo album but instead take them to a website with just ads. So these spammy links direct users to a website or page that does not meet their expectations.
In its post on cleaning up News Feeds, Facebook says they have been able to identify spammy links better by measuring how often Facebook users who visit a link choose to like the original post or share it with their friends, and that the changes to News Feeds are designed to minimize such cases of spammy links. In their early testing, Facebook found a 5% increase in users clicking on links that take them off of Facebook, which means the users find the remaining content in their News Feed more “relevant and trustworthy”.
How Social Media Marketers Can Adapt to these Changes
Industry experts point out that, with the updated news feed algorithm, brands have been forced to accept the fact that when they post to their Facebook pages, they may reach 5% or fewer of their fans (users who liked the brand page). So, it is difficult for brands to reach their fans organically without a robust and uncluttered marketing strategy. Here are some tips to help social marketers to adapt effectively to the latest News Feed changes.
- Value Customer Needs More than Brand Promotion – The new update from Facebook has once again proved that the social networking site will continue to put their users and priorities first and brands will have to adapt to accordingly. So it is crucial for you to focus on the things that users really want to see instead of providing them with heaps of branded content. If you value the needs of consumers, they will surely value of your content and link to it naturally.
- Having a Fan Base Willing to Engage with Your Brand – One of the major aims of the News Feed update is to curb stories that prevent people from seeing the content from friends and Pages they really care about. Taking steps to build a fan base that truly likes your brand and wants to engage with it is therefore very important. It is not size of your fan base that matters, but making sure that your fans are willing to engage with your brand. You can increase the engagement to your Facebook page by starting a contest, making offers or posting pictures related to your products.
- Create High-Quality, Engaging Content – Though the new update poses some restrictions on promoting overly branded content, it does not change the idea that the users must be provided content that they find valuable and want to share. High quality content that makes people to engage with it is still a powerful factor in brand recognition since social networking is all about being personal and connected.
- Encourage Best Social Marketing Practices – Stop being a spammer and adopt Facebook marketing strategies that promote authentic content that users want to see and which News Feed considers ‘natural’. Once you become successful in implementing the strategy that works best organically for your audience, you can create branded content that fits the mold and complies with the News Feed algorithm.
- Test Your Posts Frequently – To figure out what works best, you should test your posts frequently and adjust your strategies accordingly. Utilizing strategies that are flexible will help you adapt when necessary.