In August, Facebook announced via a blog post that it would be making changes to users’ News Feeds, specifically looking at “click bait” articles. We’ve all seen them: “This child only ordered a coffee, but you’ll never believe what happened next,” along with a non-descript photo. Articles like these are seemingly all over the web – they deliver high traffic, low quality, and low satisfaction. This, combined with the wonderful invention of “Share this article to view,” means this content spreads like wildfire.
The quality of the News Feed is vitally important to the sustainability and growth of Facebook. It’s a behemoth, so let’s not take what I’m about to write as a massive critique, more a considered warning that decisions that are made now could have a stark impact on things a few years down the line.
It’s easier said than done, but it’s hard to work out what took Facebook so long. The News Feed is the lifeblood of their advertising business, and what goes through it on a daily basis will shape how their users perceive it. It’s why page owners cannot be too frustrated at the decline in organic reach; as much as you can cry conspiracy about Facebook wanting to force people to pay, the growth in the number of pages and number of posts from these pages will have far outstripped this reasoning.
It’s all the more important, then, that when people see content from links, either from pages or people, it is content that is of a good quality, relevant, and interesting. It’s hard to say these click-bating articles, the like you saw on a daily basis, fit any of these descriptions, and Facebook have been right to crack down on them.
How does this apply to Facebook advertising? Well, it’s not to say that anyone reading this kind of article would be the kind of person involved in click-baiting, but it’s a timely reminder that Facebook adverts must maintain a certain standard: they must aspire to be helpful and, more importantly, relevant to those that they are presented to.
Facebook needs to hold what it presents to users to a higher standard. The move behind the click-baiting was a smart one, placing a greater emphasis on content that was commented on, and looking at the amount of time a person spends on a web page before returning to Facebook. But there’s no reason that the same shouldn’t apply to adverts as well.
What does/should that mean for advertisers? It should mean that a higher standard is demanded for adverts with better targeting and of a better quality. Adverts shouldn’t fail simply because they fail to meet Facebook regulations; they should fail because they aren’t good enough – because their targeting is too broad, not focussed enough. Yes, you’re asking a turkey to vote for Christmas, but Facebook needs to heed what happened to their right rail ads, which were often so poorly executed that they became irrelevant.
Facebook isn’t like most other platforms. It knows so much about its users that ignorance can no longer be considered an adequate defence. Demand further targeting and perhaps even pursue the idea of developing a system like the Quality Score that Google AdWords has made so successful for so long. Facebook’s long-term business success will rely on the quality of the content and adverts that are placed within it.