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Facebook announced two changes today to how the News Feed decides what content users will see in their home feed:
1. Limiting exposure for “click-baiting” headlines;
2. Limiting exposure for photo posts with links in them.
Facebook’s rationale for both changes is that they want to improve the quality of the content shown to users in their News Feed and help them to find links to things they really like. In the case of click-bait headlines, Facebook argues that users are being drawn to click low-quality content via an extremely high-quality headline (since it convinced so many people to click).
(Image Credit: Facebook. Also, they just made up Celeb Style Weekly because writing “Upworthy” would have been rude.)
How does Facebook decide if something is click bait? Facebook will monitor how long it takes you to return to the News Feed and continue surfing after your click a link. While this methodology doesn’t necessarily cover all scenarios (opening to read for later, for example), at least it’s a methodology and doesn’t involve publisher-specific penalties adjudicated by editors.
And sure, the click-bait change is getting all the attention today (because, hey, #clickbait, and we all get a bit of gossip-y pleasure of the implicit finger-pointing at the Upworthys of the world), but we’re actually more interested in what the second one means for marketers.
In explaining why image posts are being de-emphasized, Facebook states that these posts earn fewer clicks that link posts because users struggle to find the story on which they’re supposed to click. That is, the decision to de-emphasize photo posts with links included is essentially Facebook’s way of telling marketers and publishers that they’re confusing Facebook’s audience.
For a few years, one of the best strategies to get your post noticed in the News Feed was to anchor it to a gigantic image (a strategy that still does pretty well on LinkedIn, decently well on Twitter). Recently, however, Facebook updated the way they formatted link posts, and replaced the tiny thumbnail with a big-honking image from the underlying link. We were definitely fans of the change. Link posts would no longer be second-class image-size citizens in the News Feed, and users would still get a snippet of the article text.
Of course, with that change in place. publicly announcing an official change to the News Feed telling us all to Quit It With The Image Posts, We’ll Make Sure Your Stuff Looks Good is the logical next step for Facebook.
What does it mean for marketers? Unless you’re posting a standalone image with no link, we wouldn’t use another image post to share a story. Nope. Not a one. The link post will look just fine. More importantly, Facebook is emphasizing yet again that they care very much about the user experience of the News Feed, and will encourage the ecosystem to behave in ways that Facebook thinks are best.
And if you try to behave otherwise? Well, you just won’t see the reach you would earn if you behaved as Facebook had asked. You’ve been warned.