ClickbaitIn case you haven’t heard, Facebook has pulled off a hat trick with their rule changes. First they killed off organic post reach, then they banned like-gating, and their latest mission is to weed out clickbaiting.

In a nutshell, Facebook is tracking people’s response to what they click on, and your posts’ ranking in newsfeeds now hinges on two factors:

  1. The amount of time people spend reading what you link to
  2. The amount of engagement with your post

There’s no escaping it now – the days of sensationalised, Upworthy/Buzzfeed-style headlines are finally over. Headlining your post with something misleading will just send it into the doghouse in a jiffy.

But that isn’t even the end of it. Facebook also wants linking in status updates to go away.

From now on, any links in your post itself, or in photo captions, have a lower chance of being seen. We’re back to how Facebook intended it – direct link sharing, which grabs an image and the first line of text from the destination page to put on people’s newsfeeds.

That means no more squeezing multiple links into one post – plus the danger of our pages looking bad on newsfeeds, if Facebook grabs content that’s irrelevant or out of context.

What now?

Against the clickbait ruling, there’s really little to do but work on more relevant content, with more relevant headlines. And something else.

Content creators’ mission (on Facebook, at least) has expanded from getting people to read, to getting people to respond. Hence, it’s no longer just about our content. The entire reading or viewing experience has to be as perfect as possible. Which calls for mobile optimisation, persuasive design, the whole works – on every page.

(And no, there is no easy way out a la ‘please like’ or ‘please share’. Explicitly soliciting engagement may be an accepted practice on Twitter, but Facebook’s crosshairs are on ‘like-baiting’ as well.)

When sharing our content on Facebook, we have to control how it looks like in newsfeeds. Manually customising the thumbnail, headline, and description for each and every share isn’t the answer – we won’t be the only ones sharing our posts!

The Open Graph plugin does this nicely for WordPress publishers; everywhere else, effort needs to go into making sure all the pages we link to carry proper images and relevant text.

Fair? Unfair?

Note that Facebook’s two clickbait detectors are cumulative. It’s not enough for people to take the time to read your link – if the post gets far fewer likes, shares, and comments than clicks, then it’s likely to get demoted anyway.

Perhaps time spent on page and engagement ratio aren’t the best of metrics to judge clickbait by. How many times have you clicked through to an interesting article, but bookmarked it for later reading because you had no time to spend on it, or to leave a comment, there and then?

But we can’t do anything about those. What we can do, if we are going to tough it out on Facebook, is to stick to our marketer’s guns – keep the reader in mind. Create relevant, honest content, and optimise the content experience. And that can only be good for our practice.

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