Facebook Clickbait Is Back? Maybe
Facebook clickbait got eliminated, right? Not so fast, says Digiday. If it walks like clickbait, talks like clickbait, it just might be clickbait. In other words, Facebook is testing a tool that allows publishers like BuzzFeed to use up to four variations of content in real-time, letting them see results like clickthrough rate after changing headlines, images and description.
To publishers who remember Facebook punishing them for using clickbait to game its algorithm in the past, a tool to help them optimize for the algorithm comes off as ironic if not suspicious. https://t.co/E0KPLh8i6y
— Digiday (@Digiday) August 28, 2018
This article published yesterday by Digiday comes days after a Facebook Business post said the social media network was eliminating 5,000 targeting options for advertisements, such as race and ethnicity, in order to prevent misuse. The platform had had an issue, for instance with ads able to target “Jew haters.” (Speaking of which, Facebook says advertisers will have to undergo non-discrimination policy training soon — via the U.S. Ads Manager tool. “Advertisers will be required to complete this certification in order to continue advertising on Facebook.”)
But not all of the 5,000 eliminated options are about race and ethnic groups so it may be yet another way Facebook is curbing options for marketers, who’ve been complaining about reduced audience reach for years.
Since 2016, the social network's been eliminating Facebook clickbait options, with the like-pleaders penalized last year.
Then with allegations of overblown audience statistics, data privacy curbs in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal and increased scrutiny on content post-fake news, Facebook advertisers have been dealing with a lot of change.
So Facebook may be trying to make it up to marketers, starting with disgruntled publishers who didn’t get what they expected out of partnering with the social media giant. (Plus, the timing coincides with trying to appeal to banks wary of handing over customer data to an entity that didn’t deliver to expectations on publisher audience data.)
Digiday’s Lucia Moses writes that the free testing BuzzFeed and four other publishers are testing would normally cost them in the form of boosting posts. Moses adds:
“Using the tool, the publisher can see data like interactions and clickthrough rate and predictions of those metrics in real-time, so it can pick the best-performing version to show all its followers.
“Facebook said it was too early to share any test results, but Mollie Vandor, a Facebook product manager under Alex Hardiman, head of news products, said that more than half the time, publishers in the test have ended up selecting a version of the story that was different from the one they would have originally used. This suggests that the tool is helping publishers get more traffic back to their sites.”
Moses also quotes Fran Berkman, deputy director of news curation for BuzzFeed News, as saying yes, the tool BuzzFeed is testing does increase reach on the posts it tests. But: “This comes as everyone’s traffic on Facebook has gone down a lot, so it’s good to be able to get the most out of our posts, but we’re still getting a lot less.”
What do you think, marketers?
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Related story: Clickbait Will Haunt You on Facebook, Marketers