How Facebook’s war on spam benefits quality content
It’s hard sometimes to persuade people that the key to a great content marketing strategy is high quality content. Why? Because routinely they have seen that the most viral posts, the most effective diverters of attention, have been low-grade spammy content designed to manipulate people into hitting a ‘share’ button for no good reason.
You’ve seen these in the past - all over your Facebook feed, probably. “Share this if you have a daughter you love with all your heart!” is one I’ve seen quite often. Really quite intelligent people who should know better still can’t help themselves sharing such crap because - well, they want to demonstrate to the world that they love their daughter. The same daughter that’s seeing that shared post, rolling her eyes at how hopeless her parents are at this digital stuff, and getting back to Snapchat.
Now Facebook is taking action to downgrade such posts. It aims to reward the authentic, and dismiss the spammy. That’s an important opportunity for brands, because it means that entertaining, quality content gets more of a natural advantage than ever.
Specifically, Facebook will be demoting posts that ask for likes and shares without some sort of valid reason. That doesn’t affect posts that say things like “please share this picture of this missing child in case anyone’s seen him”. It does affect posts like the daughter post named above.
Some companies have never used tricks to get likes. But then if you’re using a platform for marketing, it’s the most natural thing in the world to begin by asking “what works here?” and going with the flow. So we have seen plenty of companies promoting posts that will encourage you to “win a meal out for two by sharing this post, liking and commenting” or something similar. Small businesses that offer the occasional giveaway should be OK. But pages that repeatedly use the worst forms of engagement bait to gain visibility will find that they have significantly less reach.
The move provides one more good reason why brands might turn to things that are genuinely engaging for audiences to make the most of what platforms like Facebook offer. Companies like Starbucks and Heineken have used social causes and corporate responsibility to tell stories that engage. Doing well is going to take skill and a sure touch.
There’s an old(ish) adage that - when it comes to online channels, marketers ruin everything. The power of social media used to be that people trusted their friends’ recommendations more than they trusted advertising - then marketers began piling in to manipulate the power of social proof to their own ends, and the surveys showed that people began to trust their friends less as sources of recommendations.
This latest move by Facebook is an indicator that it understands all too well that its survival depends on ensuring that marketers - and scammers - are not allowed to ruin it. What will follow will be a constant dance of marketers testing the boundaries, finding loopholes, and gradually being pushed back.
Quality content and integrity should always win, however. Smart brands will make that their strategy from the beginning, and trust that Facebook will gradually shut down the spammers.