Specifically, Facebook said it has tweaked its algorithm to limit the prominence of “Like-baiting” -- posts that explicitly ask users to like, comment or share the post to get additional distribution beyond what a post would normally get.
While the sharing activity pushes these posts higher up in the news feed, Facebook says surveys show people, on average, report that meme-type stories are 15% less relevant than updates with a similar number of likes, comments and shares.
“The improvement we are making today better detects these stories and helps ensure that they are not shown more prominently in News Feed than more relevant stories from friends and other Pages,” stated Facebook in a blog post today. It also assured that the change won’t affect brand pages that are “genuinely trying to encourage discussion among their fans.”
The company said it will also try to cut down on instances where photos or videos are repeatedly uploaded to Facebook. “We’ve found that people tend to find these instances of repeated content less relevant, and are more likely to complain about the Pages that frequently post them,” the Facebook post stated.
The algorithm update also takes aim at posts that Facebook says use inaccurate language or formatting to trick users into linking to sites that contain only ads or a combination of frequently circulated content and ads.
“The update we are making today improves News Feed to reduce cases of these spammy links, and in our early testing we’ve seen a 5% increase in people on Facebook clicking on links that take them off of Facebook. This is a big increase in the context of News Feed and is a good sign that people are finding the remaining content in their News Feed more relevant and trustworthy,” the company said.
In December, Facebook announced it would start highlighting “high-quality” content in the news feed and de-emphasize showing externally hosted “meme” photos and image macros. That shift reportedly drove down traffic to viral-sharing sites like Upworthy, ViralNova and Elite Daily. The latest algorithm adjustment could drive down traffic further to such sites if their stories and photos pop up less often in the news feed.
But the move will also likely stir the controversy around Facebook reducing organic reach for brand pages to force marketers to pay for distribution of posts. An analysis by Social@Ogilvy indicated that the average reach of organic posts had fallen from about 12% in October to 6% in February. A separate report in Valleywag, citing an anonymous source, suggested organic reach would reduced to 1% or 2%.
Given the dramatic decline in brand’s organic impressions going back to last summer, Matt Wurst, director of digital communities at 360i, recommended in a December report that companies increase spending in content development and paid media to help ensure exposure on the platform.