In news that’s been welcomed by many, Facebook has announced it will crack down on clickbait articles – those hyperbole-laden, hyped-up headline pieces than promise that ‘you won’t believe what happens next’ when you click them.
It’s good news, no one likes misleading headlines designed purely to drive up website traffic, as opposed to delivering relevant content, but it’s worth noting how Facebook is implementing this crackdown, as the impacts may spread further than just the intended targets.
In Facebook’s announcement, it explains how they plan to categorise clickbait:
One way is to look at how long people spend reading an article away from Facebook. If people click on an article and spend time reading it, it suggests they clicked through to something valuable. If they click through to a link and then come straight back to Facebook, it suggests that they didn’t find something that they wanted. With this update we will start taking into account whether people tend to spend time away from Facebook after clicking a link, or whether they tend to come straight back to News Feed when we rank stories with links in them.
The key thing to note here is the importance of ensuring your website is providing a great user experience, and to clearly underline what your content is in any Facebook links. This is not a major concern, Facebook would be right to assume that most of the pieces people instantly click away from would likely be clickbait, but something to note – it may mean you need to revise your post wording on the platform.
Another factor we will use to try and show fewer of these types of stories is to look at the ratio of people clicking on the content compared to people discussing and sharing it with their friends. If a lot of people click on the link, but relatively few people click Like, or comment on the story when they return to Facebook, this also suggests that people didn’t click through to something that was valuable to them.
This move is pretty much in line with recent Facebook newsfeed updates – if you’re posting content that’s not getting any engagement, it’s not going to reach many of your fans. With most brands reporting reach declines of 30-40% in the last year, it’s worth taking into account that this change will only reinforce the need for your content to speak to your Facebook audience, in order to maximise share potential among your fans.
The last part of the change relates to link formatting when posted:
We’ve found that people often prefer to click on links that are displayed in the link format (which appears when you paste a link while drafting a post), rather than links that are buried in photo captions.The link format shows some additional information associated with the link, such as the beginning of the article, which makes it easier for someone to decide if they want to click through. This format also makes it easier for someone to click through on mobile devices, which have a smaller screen.
With this update, we will prioritize showing links in the link-format, and show fewer links shared in captions or status updates.
This is an important one to note – Facebook will give priority to posts with auto-generated link previews, as opposed to links in captions and status updates. Most people are posting this way already, but I still see a lot of brand posts that have removed the link-format preview and added an alternate image to stand out in the feed. Another example is pages that use memes or humourous images which aren’t necessarily related to the link, but are used to illustrate an aspect of it:
While using images like this can increase engagement – resulting in increased reach – you may have to experiment to ensure the impact of reduced reach from this update doesn’t offset the gains you receive from engagement based on the image.
Overall, the methodology Facebook is using looks correct, and it’s unlikely these changes will have significant impacts on regular businesses – but with organic reach dwindling, every little bit counts. Worth ensuring you understand the rules and how best to work within Facebook’s evolving requirements.