The algorithms used by Search and Social Media platforms to rank posts are some of the most valuable lines of computer code anywhere today.
Their obscure calculations lead to some content being promoted in user news feeds, and other content sinking into obscurity. They make – and break – advertisers’ campaigns.
Advertisers have long sought to “reverse engineer” the platforms’ algorithms. if they can work out which key factors the algorithms assess in ranking content, they can write or code their ads to achieve higher rankings.
However, the algorithms are moving targets. Search and Social platforms frequently refine them to customise individual viewers’ news feeds.
Facebook has today launched a counter-offensive in the arms race with advertisers. Overtly “click bait” posts – calling on viewers to comment, react, or share – will be demoted in the rankings.
Facebook’s Henry Silverman and Lin Huang said in a blog today that users have complained about spammy posts that goad them into interacting with likes, shares, comments, and other actions. Describing these posts as “engagement bait” they said Facebook will now demote these posts so as to better promote meaningful and authentic conversations.
Page-level demotions will be progressively ramped up in coming weeks “to give publishers time to adapt and avoid inadvertently using engagement bait in their posts”.
Facebook’s goal is to encourage advertisers and agencies to design posts that seek to build relationships with Facebook users, instead of generating a one-off reaction.
Good News for All Concerned
From my perspective, this move isn’t just good for personal Facebook users, it’s good for advertisers, too.
Campaigns that succeed through tricky engagement bait ultimately undermine their brands. In some cases, they’re also deceiving advertisers into believing their campaigns are more successful than they really are.
It all comes back to brand authenticity and the role of content marketing. When marketers create campaigns and content that are genuinely appealing to audiences, consumers want to engage, and the campaigns succeed.
Brands who focus on tricking consumers into engaging with unsatisfactory content will not succeed in the long run.