Facebook’s clickbait rule and what it means for marketers

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Just a few short weeks ago, Facebook announced their intention of shifting the focus away from clickbait headlines and towards the type of authentic communication that allowed the social networking platform to experience unprecedented growth many years ago. Specifically, Facebook is trying to put an end to those annoying clickbait headlines that drive most users crazy, and deliver relevant posts that they find engaging and informative. As a marketer, it’s important that you pause to consider what this shift means for your brands.

Facebook is pushing for authentic communication

“Our goal with News Feed is to show people the stories most relevant to them — ranking stories so that what’s most important to each person shows up highest in their News Feeds,” Facebook said in its official statement on the matter.

“People have told us they like seeing authentic stories the most,” the statement continues. “That’s why we work hard to understand what type of stories and posts people consider genuine, so we can show more of them in News Feed. We also work to understand what kinds of stories people find misleading and spammy to help make sure people see those less.”

One of the things Facebook has discovered through research and analytics is that people don’t like article headlines that are misleading:

  • “You’ll Never Believe What Happened When His Girlfriend…”

  • “I was TOTALLY Shocked When I Learned This About Bananas”

  • “Can You Believe I made $5,000 Last Month Doing This?!?”

  • “He Came Home Early From Work and His Daughter’s Reaction Was Priceless.”

Admit it — you’ve clicked on a couple of these headlines before. In fact, as a marketer, you may have even tried your hand at a few of these titles. But the truth is that nobody enjoys these posts. They’re frustrating, predictable and unsubstantial.

As a result, Facebook has updated News Feed to limit the distribution of posts that cause people to click and then quickly bounce back. While this is helping, Facebook is taking things a step further by using a system that identifies common clickbait phrases that withhold information or mislead readers. The system works like an email spam filter and protects a user’s feed from being bombarded with clickbait posts.

Five things you need to know

“With organic reach always a primary goal for social media, take this news into account when brainstorming and creating editorial headlines in order to not lose your reach,” content marketing strategist Katherine McDermott says. “Research shows users want to see authentic stories, so creating valuable, engaging content is always the way to go.”

Still not sure what you need to do to remain in Facebook’s good graces? Here are the top things you should know:

  1. You probably won’t be affected

Most businesses on Facebook won’t be affected by this new change. Only the marketers that consistently use clickbait tactics to generate the majority of their traffic and leads will be adversely impacted. In other words, keep doing what you’re doing and you’ll probably never know anything even happened. But, if you’ve been known to do some misleading clickbait marketing, there are a few other things you’ll need to understand.

  1. Friends and family come first

One thing that could very well have an impact on your marketing efforts is Facebook’s newfound prioritization of friends and family members.

“Our top priority is keeping you connected to the people, places and things you want to be connected to — starting with the people you are friends with on Facebook,” the social media giant assures users. “That’s why if it’s from your friends, it’s in your feed, period — you just have to scroll down.”

Facebook isn’t mincing its words. Company officials are quite clear that posts from a user’s friends and family members will not only be present in News Feeds, but they’ll also naturally gravitate towards the top.

From a marketing perspective, the full impact of this shift remains to be seen, but it could have a direct impact on your sharing strategy. Instead of sharing everything from your branded profile, this may force you to engage influencers in an effort to encourage more user sharing.

  1. Users are getting more control

For advocates of free speech, there is some worry that Facebook has too much control over what content gets exposure, but you have to remember that Facebook is its own company and can do what it pleases. (Though, it’s notably disconcerting that Facebook blatantly pushes its own agendas and often misleads users.)

The good news is that more balance is coming in this area. Facebook notes that it’s working on ways to enhance filtering options for its users by giving them more options to suppress irrelevant content.

For marketers, this means you can’t afford to be lazy. Even a single irrelevant or ineffective post can cause users to silence you in their personal News Feeds. This gives new meaning to the importance of quality over quantity. It’s better to share two high-quality posts per week than 20 low-quality posts per week.

  1. It’s all about writing

Ultimately, Facebook’s new updates cut straight to the heart of your marketing efforts. What really matters is that you focus on content writing and start producing posts that resonate with your target market. The goal is to share content that adds value to your readers and encourages them to move through your conversion funnel. Enhance your writing and the rest will follow.

  1. Here’s how you write a headline

We’ve discussed the characteristics of clickbait headlines, but what makes a good headline? The number one thing Facebook is looking at is how well a headline informs someone.

“Instead of relying on missing information to drive click-through, try using text prompts and calls-to-action in your posts to encourage engagement,” Facebook suggests. “Consider how accurate and informative the headline is before sharing the article to your audience so people can decide how they want to spend their time with your post.”

Headlines should also set appropriate expectations. In other words, the headline shouldn’t tell the user one thing, while the content of the article says something totally different. This is difficult for Facebook to gauge at this point, but it’s an ethical practice, nonetheless.

It’s important that you’re direct and forthcoming with your headlines. It’s possible to excite users and move them to action without disguising information or being dishonest about the article. In the long run, transparent headlines lead to increased satisfaction, fewer bounces, increased average time on site, and more conversions. We can all agree that these are attractive benefits.

It’s time to adapt

Whether you’ve relied on clickbait headlines in the past or have always been fully committed to transparency, it’s imperative that you do your part and adapt to Facebook’s new updates. Instead of spending hours each week trying to cleverly dupe Facebook users into clicking your articles and driving up your traffic numbers, you should be spending that time developing marketing content that ethically drives sales.

That’s the point of Facebook’s update and you can do your part by accepting the change.

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