In the past few months, Facebook has been overrun by “engagement bait”—posts with minimal actual content that beg users to tag a friend or like if they relate to a general statement. Starting this week, Facebook will begin to demote these posts that attempt to game Facebook’s News Feed algorithm, and penalize people and Pages that repeatedly produce them.
This update will adversely affect Pages that repost content with baiting text, hopefully driving more content to original creators. Brands that hope to rank well in News Feed will be forced to organically drive engagement, rather than just beg for it.
“To help us foster more authentic engagement, teams at Facebook have reviewed and categorized hundreds of thousands of posts to inform a machine learning model that can detect different types of engagement bait,” Henry Silverman, operations integrity specialist at Facebook, said in the announcement. “Posts that use this tactic will be shown less in News Feed.”
“We will roll out this Page-level demotion over the course of several weeks to give publishers time to adapt and avoid inadvertently using engagement bait in their posts,” Silverman added.
According to Silverman, this update will not demote all posts that explicitly ask for engagement, like circulating missing persons reports or raising money for causes, just ones that are attempting to game Facebook’s algorithms. For now, the feature is only rolling out to English-language posts, though Facebook’s News Feed guidelines page promises that other languages will be covered by the update beginning in 2018.
Facebook has declined to make specific guidelines available for fear of Pages acting in bad faith to continue exploiting its algorithm, but given the rapid spread of engagement bait posts, and clickbait posts before that, it’s only a matter of time before the next reach shortcut springs up. Nevertheless, this marks the second Facebook update in the last week attempting to clean up its News Feed.
“Page Admins should continue to focus on posting relevant and meaningful stories,” Silverman said. “Moving forward, we will continue to find ways to improve and scale our efforts to reduce engagement bait.”