On Monday, Facebook announced that it would start demoting posts that exploit its algorithm, which prioritizes updates with high engagement, otherwise known as "engagement bait."
These posts—which often involves brands asking that users like, share or comment to receive a reward—can receive large amounts of engagement and can unfairly make their way to the top of your news feed. A common example is a post that prompts friend-tagging, such as, “Tag a friend who is a Sagittarius to be entered in a free giveaway.”
Obviously, these types of posts that encourage engagement climb their way up the feed and replace valuable posts from friends and pages that'd you might actually want to see. So, with the help of this new policy, Facebook hopes to clean things up a bit.
The question users and brands are now asking though, is where exactly will Facebook draw this new line between engagement bait and a legitimate contest or giveaway? Its News Feed Publisher Guidelines describe some specific types of engagement bait that will start getting demoted immediately:
1. React Baiting
Facebook's example of react baiting is a post that says, "LIKE this if you're an Aries or LOVE this if you're a Leo to find TRUE LOVE!!!" These types of posts are obviously spammy and likely won't be missed when removed from the top of users' feeds. But you'll also have to watch out not to write anything like, "Like this post if you agree that animal poaching is a major problem." If you're accustomed to asking for likes or other Facebook reactions as an informal poll of your friends and followers' sentiments, you'll have to stop that now.
2. Comment Baiting
Facebook defines comment baiting as "asking people to comment with specific answers (words, numbers, phrases, or emojis)." The example they provide is, "Comment 'YES' if you love rock as much as I do." These types of posts might seem harmless, but Facebook has a point that inviting simple one-word comments encourages more people to comment and the more people comment, the more prominence your post gets in people's news feeds—up until now. We've yet to hear from Facebook on whether this also applies to all those posts that help you come up with, say, your superhero name by combining the color of the shirt you're wearing with whatever you last ate, which isn't a specific word or phrase, but is certainly engagement bait.
3. Share Baiting
This one is pretty straightforward: any type of post that asks people to share. Facebook's example says "Share with 10 friends for a chance to win a new convertible!" We imagine it also applies to those fake posts by Bill Gates or Warren Buffet that they "want" you to share. In general, from now on, it's probably not a good idea to ask people to share your posts—at least not within the text of the post itself.
4. Tag Baiting
These are posts that ask you to tag your friend in an image. Facebook's example features a painting of a girl and the request: "Tag friends who look like her. If enough people comment, I get to keep the painting!" This specific example actually includes tag baiting and comment baiting in one post. Not a great idea.
5. Vote Baiting
These are posts that encourage users to vote on something or other via comments or reactions. In Facebook's example, users are invited to vote for their 2018 goals (get a promotion/find love/be fitter/move cities) by reacting with one of four emojsi. Vote baiting also includes asking people to vote by posting comments (so that vote baiting is also either react baiting or comment baiting).
Facebook's post adds that not all demotions will be equal. Pages that are repeatedly violate engagement bait policy will be demoted more than others (makes sense). Facebook also adds that it won't demote posts that ask users to share the alert for a missing child, or ask to raise money for a cause, or seek advice (we'd say that makes sense, too). And, at least for now, its algorithms can't address people or companies who ask their audience to engage on Facebook but do the asking outside of Facebook (e.g. a coffee shop that says, "Like us our Facebook page and show us in store for a 20% percent discount on your order").
Still, this new policy will surely have a significant effect on the brands out there that regularly use Facebook to promote their products or services. If your reading this and thinking, "I'm one of them," now is probably the right time to change up your Facebook strategy.