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Facebook to Curtail ‘Engagement Bait’

Facebook continues to crack down on what it deems non-authentic interaction on its network, which may have an impact on businesses looking to increase Likes and Page traffic. 

In a move intended to improve user experience, Facebook announced on December 18 that it will downgrade posts that beg for likes, comments or shares – what it calls “engagement bait.” The company stated that such posts would be significantly lowered in users’ News Feeds in the coming weeks.

The posts are often calls-to-action such as “Tag a friend who needs these shoes,” “Like this if you’re a Pisces,” or “Share this with 10 friends to win a trip to the Bahamas.” However, Facebook is concerned that such posts run counter to its focus on legitimate interactions among users.

“[E]ngagement bait seeks to take advantage of our News Feed algorithm by boosting engagement in order to get greater reach,” Facebook stated. “So, starting this week, we will begin demoting individual posts from people and Pages that use engagement bait…We want to reduce the spread of content that is spammy, sensational or misleading in order to promote more meaningful and authentic conversations on Facebook.” 

Facebook added that its algorithms will distinguish between spam posts and sincere requests for likes and shares, assuring users that “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, will not be adversely impacted by this update.” In addition, users will have a grace period of several weeks before posts deemed to be engagement bait are demoted in News Feeds.

Facebook has come under fire over the past year for allowing advertising spam and “fake news” to proliferate on the network. As such, the social network has sought to encourage more genuine interaction and to improve user experience. In August 2016, the company announced it would be working to reduce clickbait headlines in News Feed. In September of this year, Facebook announced that it would allow users to use a Snooze button to put a temporary freeze on updates from individuals and Pages.

The updates have potential consequences for businesses looking to increase traffic to their Pages, which Facebook has acknowledged, stating that the changes are integral to fostering an environment of meaningful interaction on the network, “even if it decreases some of our engagement metrics in the short term.” 

The announcement follows a statement from Facebook that addressed concerns about extended periods of time spent on social media. “We’re working to make Facebook more about social interaction and less about spending time,” the statement reads. “We know that people are concerned about how technology affects our attention spans and relationships, as well as how it affects children in the long run. We agree these are critically important questions, and we all have a lot more to learn.”