We all want our content to perform well, and as marketers, we sometimes worry too much about making our content clickable rather than valuable. By manipulating headlines or purposely leaving out details to encourage clickthroughs (“click-baiting”), however, you’re actually doing more harm than good — at least on Facebook.
While these posts tend to get a lot of clicks, which means that they get shown to more people and are displayed higher up in News Feed, stories with “click-bait” headlines can actually drown out content from friends and Pages that people really care about. Adopting this habit means that every one of your posts will eventually need a click-bait headline if you hope to have it shown in News Feed.
Manipulating headlines isn’t a long-term solution for your content strategy. Facebook is making sure of this by weeding out stories that people report as spammy and reducing the number of click-bait stories in News Feed. Here’s what you need to know about these changes, and how you can help your link-based content moving forward.
Detecting Click-Bait Stories
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that people don’t like being tricked. When asked what type of content they preferred to see in their News Feeds, 80 percent of the time people preferred headlines that helped them decide if they wanted to read the full article before they had to click through.
One of the ways in which Facebook plans to detect click-bait stories is by looking at how long people spend reading an article away from Facebook. If people spend time reading an article after clicking it, it suggests that they’ve found something valuable. However, if they click through and then come straight back to Facebook, that’s an indication that they didn’t find something that they wanted.
Another way the site’s cracking down on click-bait is by looking at the ratio of people clicking on the content compared to people discussing and sharing it. If a lot of people click on the link, but only a few click Like or comment on the story after returning to Facebook, this suggests that they didn’t click through to something that was valuable to them.
Rather than posting a link for the sake of sharing it, encourage conversation around it. Posts that include a prompt for conversation or a question receive 70 percent above-average engagement than posts that don’t. Additionally, posts that include responses from the Page receive 14 percent more comments than those that don’t.
Sharing Links in Posts
In addition to keeping a closer eye on click-bait stories, Facebook also encourages you to consider how you’re formatting these links. The social network found that people prefer to click links that are displayed in the link format (which appears when you paste a link while drafting a post) rather than links that are buried in photo captions.
Moving forward, Facebook will prioritize showing links in the link format while showing fewer links shared in captions or status updates. The link format shows additional information associated with the link which may be helpful when people are deciding whether to click through. Additionally, shared links often appear in News Feed with a large picture, headline, and some contextual text or description.
With that in mind, it’s important that your articles or blog posts you’re sharing are optimized for Facebook. Experiment with different images, using a unique one for every post, and consider how that image will look at different sizes. Links with engaging thumbnails received 65 percent more Likes and 50 percent more comments. You’ll also want to pay extra attention to your opening paragraph, particularly the first couple of lines as these will likely be displayed in News Feed.
We don’t expect that many Pages will see a dramatic change in distribution. According to Facebook, a small set of publishers who are frequently posting links with click-bait headlines that many people don’t spend time reading after clicking through might see their distribution decrease over the next few months.
While that likely doesn’t apply to you, we recommend that you take a step back to think critically about your existing content strategy on Facebook. Consider the types of stories that you post and how they benefit your customers as well as the brand. Are the links adding value? Are they performing as well as you had hoped?
You might also want to think about the frequency at which you publish these posts. Too many “I” updates could take away from the “we” perspective you’re building within your community. You also don’t want to become so comfortable that your content becomes repetitive. Too many posts using the same medium can hinder the fresh content you’re trying to promote.
At the end of the day, it’s important that you’re using the story type that best fits the message you want to share — whether its a photo, video, link, or status update. You can ensure that message reaches the right people through post targeting, no tricks required.
Jennifer Beese: Jennifer Beese has worked as a community manager and social media strategist. When she’s not writing, you can find her studying anatomy and physiology—she literally has a skeleton in her closet—or under the stars with her telescope.