Say Goodbye To The Facebook ‘Engagement Bait’ Era



Facebook wants to separate great content from content that’s engineered for engagement.


Access exclusive SMW+ content by marketers whose careers you can emulate with a free 30-day trial!

It’s time to say sayonara to “engagement bait” as we know it.

Facebook took to its blog this week to announce a new update to its News Feed algorithm that will translate into “stricter demotions” for individual publishers or Pages who employ so-called engagement bait tactics designed to boost the reach of their posts.

So, what exactly is engagement bait? This is a tactic that increased in popularity as engagement became a core metric by which Facebook’s algorithm ranked organic content in the News Feed. The more likes, comments, and shares on a brand or publisher’s organic post, the bigger the boost in the feed. Once Page admins achieved results with this tactic, implementing CTAs like “SHARE THIS” and similar phrases became commonplace—with some prompts offering incentives for engagement in the form of contests and prizes.

Here are a few screenshots of such tactics in action. (By now you’ve probably seen most of these on your own timeline.)

Facebook’s aim with this announcement is to widen the gap between organic content that is high-performing by virtue of timeliness, quality, and relevance versus content that is bubbling up based on more “artificial” factors. Put another way, the platform wants to continue rewarding meaningful content while de-emphasizing the prominence of clickbait.

When it comes to which words and phrases will trigger the demotion of content, Facebook explains that they have reviewed “hundreds of thousands of posts” and used a machine learning model to predict the types of triggers that are most often correlated to engagement-baiting posts.

Facebook also clarified that it will not penalize, “posts that ask people for help, advice or recommendations, such as circulating a missing child report, raising money for a cause, or asking for travel tips.” As articulated by sources at The Next Web, “The issue isn’t people targeting their immediate personal network, but rather pages that can be viewed by the entire Facebook community.”

The demotions will begin immediately and roll out over the next few weeks, so brands should audit their Facebook strategies as soon as possible to avoid publishing the types of content that will suffer within the new News Feed environment. In the meantime, Facebook has issued a fair warning that any posts found to be begging for or baiting user engagement will see adverse effects in the form of a significant reduction in total reach.

However, such losses can be regained by through emphasis on “relevant and meaningful stories.” For some initial guidelines, the company encourages a visit to its “News Feed Publisher Guidelines” page.

Cover photo via Mashable.

Learn the latest trends, insights and best practices from the brightest minds in media and technology. Sign up for SMW Insider to watch full-length sessions from official Social Media Week conferences live and on-demand.

Newsletter Subscription

Get the latest insights, trends and best practices from today's leading industry voices.

Learn More

Write for Us

Interested in sharing your ideas and insights with the world? Become a SMW News contributor and reach 300k readers each month.

Apply Here