Facebook newsfeeds are overloaded with misleading links to “amazing new tricks” that you simply “won’t believe.” As a cheap marketing ploy, they attract plenty of clicks, but also plenty of ire. Now Facebook is cracking down on them altogether.
The problem with measuring marketing success in terms of clicks alone is that it doesn’t take into account why a person clicked a link, or what they did afterwards. Writing a great headline that will draw people to your content is a highly prized skill, but presenting great content in the most attractive light is a far cry from pretending that your content is about something else entirely. No one likes to feel duped, and whilst underpaid web marketers anxious to prove to clients that they are racketing up page views might be willing to get these any way they can, for small businesses, practices like these are a reputational kiss of death.
What’s more, internet platforms are catching on to the problem. Companies like Facebook realise that allowing “spammy” content to proliferate on newsfeeds reflects badly on them, too, and a loss of valuable eyeballs is a bigger threat than the loss of low budget marketing outfits. Small companies who advertise in this way run the risk of destroying their image over a channel that will soon cease to exist. Whichever way you look at it, click baiting is a bad idea.
As a more accurate gauge of engagement, internet innovators like BuzzFeed judge popularity by the amount of times that content is shared, not by how often it is viewed. Facebook has been slow to catch up with this approach, using algorithms that promote posts further up the feed based on the number of clicks they get, rather than the response. Now, the company has announced, they are changing all that, instead judging the quality of a post by how long each person stays on the page, as well as whether they “like,” comment on or share it afterwards. Posts that get a lot of clicks but very few likes, says Facebook, are likely to be flagged as clickbait.
For many SMEs, this will mean scrapping lazy scattergun approaches, misleading titles and “quantity over quality” approaches. It means changing the way that they evaluate the success of campaigns and focussing on producing great content, marketed in the best way to the most engaged audience. And, with any luck, it will mean that skilled marketers are valued based on their ability to genuinely strike a chord with an intended audience, rather than bartered down to damaging, lowest-common-denominator approaches that end up serving no one.