Facebook have announced that they’re making changes to their algorithm in order to fight what they regard as “engagement bait”. The examples that they give on their blog include vote baiting using the like, love, hate emojis; react baiting where you like or love a post depending on the question and share baiting. The example for the latter is a competition (share with 10 friends to win a car).
Brands use baiting tactics to boost engagement on their pages. This in turn boosts their standing within Facebook’s algorithm and ultimately artificially gain reach in user’s News Feeds. The social media giants aren’t happy about this tactic as they want to “foster authentic engagement” and therefore pages that use baiting will soon find themselves being demoted. The Facebook blog goes on to say that they’ll be looking to improve and scale efforts to reduce engagement bait in the future.
Baiting For Compers
For comping this is an interesting move. You only need to look over the masses of advent competitions this year to discover that most are now run on social media. The vast majority of those that are on Facebook utilise some kind of baiting technique – whether it’s like/share or leave a comment. We’re thinking that Facebook would like to minimise these tactics and therefore penalise pages that use them. If that’s the case then this could mean that brands may decide that running competitions is no longer worth while. Well, that’s if they’re only running their competition to boost engagement and therefore gain favour within the Facebook algo. Competitions are a good way of generating likes/shares and comments. Yesterday we ran a small competition to win a cake card. Users had to comment on the post to enter the prize draw. It didn’t get as much interest as we’d hoped but it still generated plenty more likes and shares than other non-baited posts. The competition post also had more views than many other posts we’ve recently made. Better organisation, earlier posting and better imagery would have improved things further.
Competitions Generate Engagement
Our view is that Facebook has already found multiple ways to make it harder for brands to get engagement and information to users who have liked pages so why not run a competition? Competitions tend to be cheap to run – and could actually prove better value than spending money on Facebook adverts (we’re assuming this point having flirted only briefly with FB’s advertising options). The flipside to that is that competitions are less targeted and some brands may not be overly happy in just attracting compers to their pages. C’est la vie. It may well be that a brand is happy to take a hit on the FB algo in order to get plenty of likes and shares from willing participants. However it all depends on the severity of the penalty dished out for baiting and here lies Facebook’s real problem. If the penalty for using baiting techniques to offer prizes is simply “we’ll not show you on a feed we already don’t show you on” then no one will stop.
Will FB Turn A Blind Eye?
The only way competitions will cease using this mechanism is if Facebook closes pages down for baiting. We can’t see that happening – so anticipate that blind eyes will be turned to big brands like B&M Stores with over 1million likers and who use comment bait, including offering prizes, almost daily. We wouldn’t be surprised if some smaller pages get slaps on the wrist if they dare ask for a like to enter a draw. Considering Facebook is one of the biggest data collectors in the world we’re still amazed that they haven’t devised a way for brands to run contests and giveaways whilst collecting/sharing data within the FB eco-system. Perhaps it’s a big legal minefield, perhaps it’s too complicated to develop or perhaps they already have more than enough data on you! Many a true word is said in jest springs to mind.
No More Like/Share Competitions?
So will these changes effect comping? We think not. A few years back Facebook tried to stop pages using the like/share as a mechanism for competitions. Instead pages were meant to use apps! However that idea rapidly failed – mainly because after a few weeks everyone went back to like/share comps and weren’t penalised for doing so. Now we’re at a stage of 100s of competitions using like/share/tag as they please. The only way things will change is if Facebook say that like/share/comment mechanisms can’t be used for running competitions and implement severe penalties (i.e. ban pages) if they are used. Next year’s advent list will be a good marker to how successful this bait attack policy has been. We expect that there will still be 100s of FB advent competitions asking for likes/shares in 2018. Let’s see what happens!