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Facebook Begins Penalizing "Low Quality" Content on Pages

Posted 27 August, 2013

Facebook_Begins_Penalizing_Low_Quality_Content_on_PagespenaltyWhat's the #1 priority of all Facebook page owners?

Creating posts that get engagement & make fans take action!

Often times this means posting viral photos (including memes) & updates that are completely off topic, but engaging.

The idea is to get tons of engagement on these posts, increase Edgerank, & ensure your other posts (for example, link posts that drive traffic to your website) get seen by more people.

I'm all for this -- and it's a tactic we've employed on Post Planner's page for quite some time. With huge success.

But this tactic could soon result in a penalty by Facebook!

Facebook to Penalize "Low Quality" Content

Many page owners may need to re-think their post content strategy based on an announcement by Facebook about it's news feed algorithm for page posts:

Every day people see content from millions of Pages on Facebook in their News Feeds. Our goal is to show the right content to the right people at the right time so they don’t miss the stories that are important to them. As part of that we want to make sure that the best quality content is being produced, surfaced and shared. Our latest update to the News Feed ranking algorithm helps ensure that the organic content people see from Pages they are connected to is the most interesting to them.

This sounds great -- and it makes sense that Facebook is attempting to show you the right content.

More from Facebook:

While the goal of News Feed is to show high quality posts to people, we wanted to better understand what high quality means. To do this we decided to develop a new algorithm to factor into News Feed. To develop it, we first surveyed thousands of people to understand what factors make posts from Pages high quality. Some of the questions we asked included:

  • Is this timely and relevant content?
  • Is this content from a source you would trust?
  • Would you share it with friends or recommend it to others?
  • Is the content genuinely interesting to you or is it trying to game News Feed distribution? (e.g., asking for people to like the content)
  • Would you call this a low quality post or meme?
  • Would you complain about seeing this content in your News Feed?

So far so good -- all of these items are qualities of highly sharable posts. But read this:

We used the results of this survey to build a new machine learning system to detect content defined as high quality. The system uses over a thousand different factors, such as how frequently content from a certain Page is reported as low quality (e.g., hiding a Page post), how complete the Page profile is, and whether the fan base for a particular Page overlaps with the fan base of other known high quality Pages. Coming up with an algorithm to detect this is complex, and we will continue to refine it as we get more feedback.

According to a Facebook source quoted by TechCrunch, memes will be targeted specifically & deemed "low quality":

“Pages producing some low quality, meme content can expect to see a slight decrease. Pages that are exclusively posting low quality, meme content might see a bigger drop. The magnitude of the change will be greatest for Pages creating high quality content. Generally, these Pages should see increased distribution.”

Sorry, but this just doesn't seem right.

hate facebookHow in the world can Facebook determine if a post is a meme? And why would the post be considered low quality -- especially if it gets great engagement?

If the post gets posted by a page I follow & no one responds, then sure -- don't give it a lot of visibility in the news feed.

But to punish the post before the page even hits "Post" isn't right, IMHO.

Reading the above announcement, I get the impression Facebook will now be determining a post's visibility in the news feed based on the post's content -- regardless of the level of engagement.

Brian Carter left a great comment on the TechCrunch article that deserves your attention:

briancarterMemes will be punished in the Facebook newsfeed. Facebook says that memes are low quality. Facebook did not say why they believed memes to be low quality, and I completely disagree. I need an explanation. I thought memes were one of the more interesting things Facebook had surfaced- a fascinating contribution it was making to modern culture. I would argue that memes are high quality, because they work- and they're like words or symbols but just more complicated units of culture.

Memes help Facebook marketers. For the last year, among other things I teach, I've shown companies how to leverage memes- because many companies, especially small ones, are at a disadvantage in this new world of publishing EVERY day. How do you come up with something new and effective, especially if you're understaffed, undertrained, and underfunded? The fuel that social media burns is novelty, and sometimes you just have to be a little bit new, or combine two old things to get attention. Memes do that. They are a time-efficient and effective way to get a message out.

Facebook shouldn't be judging content quality. This action is a huge shift in Facebook's M.O., is it not? First off, making a judgment on the quality of any type of content (apart from things that are illegal or indecent) is new. Second, the newsfeed algorithm is supposed to surface what people interact with. Now, they're saying that all these people are wrong. It's snobby, like representative democracy. "You people are too stupid to recognize quality, so we'll help you- we'll just ignore that you like memes." Instead of relying on their own newsfeed algorithm, Facebook will apply its own aesthetic, but with no explanation of the aesthetic.

I find this a disturbing precedent, because whatever alternatives to memes we develop may later be penalized as well. If Facebook says memes are crappy, what do they view as ideal content? Or should we just expect years of case by case elimination of certain kinds of content?

I think Facebook just stepped onto a slippery slope: judging content apart from illegal/indecent things, and it disturbs me that it's not better defined.

If Facebook is going to select what is shown in the news feed based on content & not on engagement, then we have a problem.

People are going to scream "CENSORSHIP!"

You may hate meme posts -- and that's fine. But what if the posts get tons of engagement?

Doesn't that mean the post is NOT low quality? It obviously had enough value for fans to comment on it -- so it seems to me to be high quality.

Facebook needs to clarify this ASAP before more page owners like Brian get into an uproar.


This update not only confuses small business owners, it confuses those whose business is based on training small businesses:

Mari Smith

mari personal profile<sigh> - Scott, trying to make sense of this one and provide actual, practical tips for SMBs where they don't need to get their crystal ball out...

I don't think the post (Facebook blog update) does a good job at all of explaining the criteria; the posts states FB uses a whopping 1,000+ factors and they only reveal three of them!!

I'm not alone in my assumption (based on the TechCrunch article) that Facebook will be penalizing based on the content of your post:

Jon Loomer

jonI'm really torn on this latest news that Facebook will be punishing posts that beg for likes, comments and shares.

On one hand, I really do hate that crap. I don't feel comfortable doing it. If you read through my posts, I doubt you'll find that type of language. I cringe when I read that stuff in my News Feed. And it's no coincidence that this type of language only comes from brands (not friends). That's kind of the key here.

On the other, this seems a bit heavy handed. Until now, Facebook has allowed users to tell them what is spammy and punish brands accordingly. So if users think that memes and unnatural CTAs are spammy, they'll have no problem marking them as such. Why does Facebook need to make this decision for them?

Scott Linklater

402519_3049938562683_2114488337_nBut what you like and what other people like is open to interpretation Jon. There is a method already in place to work out what is good content and what isn't and that is called "like, share, comment and hide."

It seems now Facebook want to tell us what we should consider good content coz we are too stupid too know ourselves.

I find it extremely condescending and immensely short sighted on so many levels.

I don't think it will be dialed in to make much impact coz if it is there will be too many mistakes and people will start screaming loud!

I think like many other things they do, this will have very very limited impact overall as it is way too broad in it's nature to be effective across the board.

David Foster

I feel that this is their platform and they are free to do what they want, but the more they do this...the more they are going to piss off the people who fund the whole show here.

What should you expect?

From Facebook:

For most Pages the impact should be relatively small, but Pages that are seeing good engagement on their posts could see further increases in reach. The bottom line is that your Page strategy should still stay the same: produce high quality content and optimize for engagement and reach.

Facebook gives this advice when it comes to creating posts on your page:

  • Make your posts timely and relevant
  • Build credibility and trust with your audience
  • Ask yourself, “Would people share this with their friends or recommend it to others?”
  • Think about, “Would my audience want to see this in their News Feeds?”

John Haydon

John HaydonThe bottom line here is that there is no trick to getting ahead in Facebook’s newsfeed other than truly serving your community with valuable content. This will always be the case regardless of how much Facebook changes the newsfeed algorithm.

My speculation: this algorithm test/tweak could be why pages are seeing a lower Reach number when posting photos. Facebook may be assuming the page is simply posting a meme or other silly photo to gain attention & engagement.

Moving forward this may be something we all have to consider when posting -- but only time will tell.

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