Facebook’s Stance Against Engagement Bait: Bye Bye Giveaways?

Facebook has recently announced its decision to demote posts that engage in what they have termed “engagement bait[ing]”. In a blog post, the social media company explained that the Facebook community has indicated their “dislike [for] spammy posts… that goad them into interacting with likes, shares, comments and other actions”. Thus, in order to “foster more authentic engagement”, Facebook has updated their machine-learning model to detect different types of engagement bait. Such posts are now less likely to show up on users’ News Feeds.

In case anyone is unclear, Facebook also provides examples of what engagement bait consists of.

Examples of engagement bait. Image courtesy of the Facebook blog.

Influencers and Brands: Who Should Take Note?

As this change applies to both individual posts on Facebook as well as posts on Pages, both influencers and brands who have been using such tactics will be affected.

While the algorithm currently only affects individual posts, Facebook has also indicated its plans to demote Pages that regularly use engagement bait tactics within the next few weeks, giving managers of such Pages some time to adapt to the new changes to the platform.

More examples of engagement baiting. Image courtesy of the Facebook blog.

How Will I Be Affected?

If you or your brand is committed to producing original content and does not use engagement bait, then this change should not affect the visibility of the content you create.

However, both influencers and brands may notice that even if you do not regularly post captions asking users to “like” your post for good luck, or to tag 3 friends who behave like someone in your video, there is one instance where you are likely to use multiple forms of engagement bait at the same time: giveaways.

Bye bye Facebook Giveaways?

Of all types of Facebook posts, giveaways are probably the largest repositories for engagement bait. A typical giveaway asks users to do not just one but a combination of the following things:

Example of giveaway post containing multiple engagement baits.
  1. Like the post
  2. Like the Page (if relevant)
  3. Tag a few friends in the comments
  4. Share the post
  5. Comment why they deserve/want to win or what they would do with the prize

All of these calls to action are examples of engagement bait.

An influencer or brand holding the giveaway can usually expect increased engagement for that post, simply because users have something material to win from their efforts. Giveaways that ask users to tag others or to share the post also have the added benefit of increasing audience reached, since users may tag friends who would otherwise not have seen the post.

However, Facebook’s announcement suggests that such posts will now be demoted and are less likely to appear on users’ feeds. In addition, if a Page frequently features such posts (Facebook does not define “frequent”), ALL posts, even those that do not contain engagement bait, risk becoming less visible.

What Can Be Done

The simplest and most direct solution, of course, is to stop holding giveaways. But if you or your brand thinks that giveaways are an integral part of your business model, here are a few things to consider.

I. Use other social media platforms

Facebook isn’t the only social media platform available. If you or your brand has a significant presence on more than one platform, consider migrating your giveaways there. Use Instagram, YouTube, or even Twitter. Given that Instagram is owned by Facebook and also suffers from an engagement baiting problem, it might not be long before Instagram also updates it algorithm to recognize engagement baiting there. But there is no harm to making use of the platform while its still available.

Example of a giveaway held on Instagram.

II. Get your top followers to help you

If you or your brand still has no idea who your top followers are, it may be time to identify them. These are the people who:

  1. Like, comment on or share almost every post
  2. Participate in every giveaway
  3. Have tagged you in posts to show that they have purchased your products (if applicable)

Add these individuals to a VIP group and give them access to special information or events. Then, when you decide to hold a giveaway, you can also engage their help in promoting the giveaway for you.

Whether Facebook’s new clean-up manages to decrease the number of “spammy” posts that use engagement bait has yet to be seen. Since engagement baiting tactics were conceived of because influencers and brands wanted to bypass Facebook’s algorithm, we expect that such individuals will soon come up with new ways to do so and we’ll be sure to give you an update on that when it happens.

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