Facebook is Cracking Down Hard on These Types of Updates – So Stop Sharing Them!

Sometimes I feel like Jerry Seinfeld over here, standing at the microphone, asking, “And what’s the DEAL with Facebook algorithms!”

All through 2014, Facebook’s algorithm changes have been causing serious headaches for pretty much any business trying to keep it together on social media. Reach is up, reach is down. This type of post does great, that type of post tanks every time. It’s like playing Whack-a-Mole while wearing a blindfold!

Except that Facebook just came out and told us some things we can do to get our posts seen by more people.

They up and announced it, just like that! About 2 weeks ago, Facebook explained that they were tinkering with the algorithms that determine how many people in your audience actually see the things you post.

And while they usually keep the details of those changes under lock and key, this time, they said, “To heck with it,” and told us what we need to do differently if we want to get better results.

This means that there are things you might be doing right now that you need to STOP DOING, and pronto.

What are those things, exactly? And how do you need to adjust your own strategy to keep up with the times? Let’s take a closer look!

1. Facebook is Killing Click-Bait

Facebook always says that its algorithm changes are implemented with the user experience in mind, and in this case, they’re REALLY telling the truth.

Y’all know what click-bait is, and you know because it’s been gunking up your news feed for at least a year. It’s when someone teases your curiosity juuuuuuust enough to get you to click through to their site, with a post like this:

What a tantalizing headline, right? Ten images – that’s not a huge time commitment. And what about them could make you cry, or make you furious? Get clicking to find out!

It used to be that because articles like these garnered so many clicks from curious users, they got higher organic reach from Facebook. That reach made it easier to get MORE clicks, along with more likes and shares, which in turn improved reach even more, eventually becoming this self-perpetuating cycle of escalating popularity.

The thing is, a lot of click-bait sucks.

When people figured out that click-bait headlines were scoring major exposure and traffic, though, they started showing up EVERYWHERE. “You’ll never believe what this guy did to propose to his girlfriend!” “One look inside this teacher’s lunchbox and you’ll cry!” “Is this Civil War photo proof that Kim Kardashian can time travel?”

Civil War Kim Kardashian

I dunno, this could be legit.

It’s low-quality content created for the sole purpose of getting you to click. You click, you satisfy your curiosity, they get more exposure and traffic and money, and that’s that. But Facebook is sick of it.

Facebook has set up its algorithm to detect the telltale signs of click-baiting, so that it can differentiate between links that just get a lot of curiosity clicks and ones that people actually, you know, get actual value from.

How do they do that, exactly?

Facebook doesn’t have a room full of people somewhere reading headlines and making judgment calls. Rather, their technology looks for certain red flags in user behavior that can indicate when something is click-bait. Primarily, these are:

  1. Articles that users click to, but don’t spend much time reading
  2. Articles that have a significantly higher rate of clicks than interactions (likes, shares, and so on)

So if you click through to see that photo insinuating that Kim Kardashian time-traveled to the early 1860s, for example, you’re probably going to take one look and then bounce on outta there. It’s not a substantive piece of content. Facebook will calculate that you didn’t spend much time on the page after clicking the link, and use that to help determine the value of whatever you saw there (and consequently, whether that link deserves a broader reach).

Same basic principle with the second factor. 10 thousand people might click that link, but if only 100 care enough to leave a comment or like it on Facebook, the social network may determine that it was a low-quality link, and shouldn’t necessarily be shown to a big audience.

How does this affect you?

Because of the types of data Facebook’s algorithms are collecting, there are certain things you need to do.

First of all, don’t link to bite-sized content. When someone clicks a Facebook link and doesn’t spend much time on the page it leads to, Facebook does NOT approve. So while a 100-word blog post may seem like a great idea at the time – and may in fact be an amaaaaazing little post – somebody breezing right through it might send Facebook the wrong message. Create and link to content that people can really sink their teeth into.

Second, encourage people to interact with your links ON FACEBOOK. Here’s a great example: back in March, the popular site Copyblogger made a bit of a splash when it made the decision to straight-up eliminate commenting on its blog posts.

Copyblogger no more comments

Copyblogger directs would-be commenters away from the blog and back toward social media.

That was actually kind of a genius move, because it takes alllll the conversation that was happening on-site and moved it to social networks like Facebook. Now, instead of leaving comments on a blog post, readers leave comments on the Facebook link leading TO that blog post – and that’s the sort of thing Facebook LOVES to see.

Does that mean you should stop people from commenting on YOUR blog? Not necessarily – I mean, I’m not! (Let me know what you think about that in the comments below! #shameless) But it DOES mean you should always remember to foster engagement on Facebook. Encourage people who click the link to leave comments on it, and join the conversation when you can – you might actually have fun doing it!

2. Facebook is Distinguishing Between Links and Photos

The second big change to Facebook’s algorithm is either going to affect you in a HUGE way or not really make a difference at all.

Basically, if you want a link you share on Facebook to be accompanied by an image, there are two ways to do it: adding an image to your link post, or adding a link to your image post.

Here, I’ll show you. First, here’s an image that I shared with a URL in the caption:

Now, here’s a link I shared with an image preview:

See the difference? Just like with the click-bait thing, now, Facebook wants to give its users more of what they want.

The social network reports that its users more frequently click on link posts with images, rather than images with URLs in the captions. Such being the case, those are the types of posts it’s going to favor.

How does this affect you?

Easy – if you want to display an image, share a link with an image preview – NOT an image with a link in the caption. If you’re doing that already, you don’t have to change a thing. If you usually post image updates with URLs in the caption, though, you’re going to want to change your strategy – otherwise, those updates just aren’t going to get seen as much as you want them to.

So Go Make the Changes That Make a Difference!

We’re not always so lucky as to be flat-out told by Facebook how we should change our posting habits to get better reach – so take advantage of this knowledge! Tailor your posting strategy to accommodate these algorithm changes, and you just might notice that finding your audience is a little bit easier.

Feeling stuck finding ways to make the changes Facebook wants? Share what you’re thinking in the comments below, and we can all put our heads together to work on solutions!

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About Laura Roeder

Laura Roeder is a social media marketing expert who gives businesses of all sizes the tools they need to make their mark on the web. She is the creator of the social media scheduling software Edgar, as well as social media marketing web courses like Creating Fame and Social Brilliant.

Comments

  1. I personally hate sites that only allow comments through social media. As a consumer it says you only care about me if I am on social media. You only want me for the social clout I give. Just my two cents.

  2. Interesting article, and thanks for the tips. One observation through our testing we have had a lot better organic reach with sharing several images and linking to the article within the description than we do putting the link in and populating the image directly from the post. While our users like the latter better easier to get to the article Facebook does not give them as much organic reach. This seems to be the opposite of what you mentioned and FB claims, thoughts?

    • Tom | Team LKR says:

      Sounds like the latest change may be Facebook’s way of rectifying the problem you mention! One type of update was giving you better organic reach, while the other was getting better responses from your followers – hopefully with this algorithm change, you’ll be able to get good response AND good reach at the same time!

  3. Fabulous informative post Laura. In this case it looks as though my tendency to not change my strategy with the latest social media ‘must do’s’ every week is paying off!

    Thanks for the update as it’s good to know we’re on the right track and it just shows that most of the time focusing on contributing value never goes out of fashion. :)

  4. Thank you so much (again), Laura, for the great blog! I already do the link post with image preview so I’m golden :D I was thinking about de-activating comments on my YouTube channel though, so maybe I need to reconsider that…

  5. Hi there, how do you share a link with an image preview? Before Facebook used to do that automatically when I shared a link on my page, it would just generate the image preview, as well as the title and description of the post. So how to get the image preview? Thanks!

    • Tom | Team LKR says:

      Hey Meryem!

      Facebook should continue automatically generating an image preview for the links you put in your status updates – it’s something you have to opt out of for any given post, rather than opting in. Here’s an example of what it should look like when you copy/paste a link into an update:
      Facebook Image Preview
      The image and the description generate automatically once you insert the link, and as I pointed out above, you also have the option of choosing which image FB uses, uploading an image from your computer to use, or deleting the image part altogether.
      Certain scheduling tools should give you similar options. For example, when you copy/paste a link into Edgar, it will automatically generate a similar setup, where you can choose from images culled from the destination URL or delete the image preview altogether:
      Edgar Image Preview

      Hopefully that helps!

      • Thanks for the visual! What’s the best size image to upload?

      • Tom | Team LKR says:

        That’s an awesome question, Lisa, because the size of the image you upload actually determines how the link preview looks in your Facebook feed! Here, I’ll show you what I’m talking about. Here are two different links from the LKR Facebook page:

        Facebook link preview comparison

        You can see that the one on the left has a nice, big picture, while the one on the right just has a wee little thumbnail – and it’s all because of the sizes of the original images. If you want a bigger preview like the one on the left, the image you use has to meet some minimum requirements.

        On a computer, the larger image preview displays at 484×252 pixels, but the picture you upload actually has to be even bigger than that (this allows Facebook to shrink it down and do whatever magic it does). Straight from the horse’s mouth, to get the BEST results, your image should actually be 1200×630 pixels, but it doesn’t have to be. At the very least, though, it has to be 600×315 pixels. If it’s smaller than that, Facebook’s gonna shrink and/or crop it waaaay down into a little thumbnail, like the one on the right in that picture above.

        Hope that clears things up!

  6. Since our primary goal for Facebook is to drive traffic to our site, the recent changes are prompting me to rethink (a.k.a. downgrade) the amount of attention we pay to Facebook. Their new policy, supposedly to crack down on “clickbait,” will actually punish all link posts that actually succeed at getting people to click through. Suppose I post a story of ours about how to handle social media strategy for events, and our Facebook audiences responds by clicking through in large numbers. But they didn’t “Like” the story before they clicked through, and they didn’t come back to the post on Facebook after reading the story to “Like” it or engage with it. Facebook is now going to slash our reach for that? Or apply some kind of platform-wide Scarlet-letter to that article because people clicked on it? Either this is an unintended side effect of implementing a crappy solution to a problem, or it’s actually a yet another thinly-veiled step towards killing organic reach and making Facebook a pay-to-play platform for traffic generation.

    It’s their platform, it’s their business, they get to do what they want with it. But when I consider what makes sense for our business, it increasingly seems like Facebook isn’t the best place to organically seed our content. Maybe we should just leave sharing to Facebook to our users, except for paid ads. Or perhaps I’m misunderstanding the change in policy?

    • Tom | Team LKR says:

      Hey Matthew,
      You raise some really good points, especially as to what could end up being some unintended consequences of this algorithm change. Ideally, examples like the one you gave won’t be problematic, given that Facebook’s plan for cutting back on clickbait is a two-step solution. That is, engagement with a link on FB is one factor that can be used to determine that link’s value, but time spent on-page will be the other. So in theory, even if a story doesn’t get a huge amount of engagement on FB like you said, if the people who click through take the time to read the story, that should help it register with FB as a valuable link. (FB hasn’t specified what constitutes a significant amount of time, but I should think that the X-number of minutes it takes to completely read an article/blog post/etc. should be sufficient.)

      Of course, that’s the ideal – who’s to say how well it will actually work for the average user. As always, there are sure to be all kinds of kinks and revisions. (And given FB’s trend over the past year or so to make organic reach harder and harder to come by, it’s well within reason to be a bit skeptical.) In our experience, organic reach on FB is definitely less reliable than it used to be, but for all the longer it takes to share a story, it isn’t necessarily worth giving up on it altogether. Even if only 1 out of every 10 links you share ends up gaining enough traction to drive a significant amount of traffic to your site, that’s better than nothing at all!

    • I totally agree with you! I don’t link bait but now I might get punished if my posts seem like I am? It’s such a bummer!

  7. Laura – you are the ONLY blog I follow because you seriously give me amazing tips. Thanks so much! I’m a little slow on the tech stuff these days but it sounds like I need to start putting more images in my blog posts so I can share different ones for the link with an image that you suggest. Right?

    • Tom | Team LKR says:

      Hey Danielle!

      Thanks so much for those kind words! Adding images to a blog post never hurts, that’s for sure – especially because it gives you more options for sharing on social. (For example, you could use a different image to promote a link on Facebook than you do to promote that link on Twitter, Pinterest, etc.) In fact, next Tuesday we’re gonna be taking a closer look at sharing images on Pinterest, and how you can figure out which types of images are most valuable for your website, so don’t forget to check back! It should be right up your alley!

      PS. In the meantime, you should check out this blog post about finding/creating images for your blog – it might come in handy!

  8. Hey Thanks for the info.. Not particularly FB savvy so although I get what you mean when you say to post a link with an image preview.. I don’t know how to tell the difference between that and what I’m doing? Do you have a step by step guide on how to do that? Any help would be greatly appreciated!

    • Tom | Team LKR says:

      No problem! Whenever you copy/paste a link into a Facebook status update, FB should automatically generate a preview for you. It’ll also give you the option of scrolling through different image options, uploading a new one, or deleting the image preview altogether. Here’s an example of what it should look like when you add a link to a status update:
      Facebook Image Preview
      Hopefully that helps!

  9. Simple and effective. Thanks for the post!

  10. Laura! Why aw you so smaht?!

  11. Fab – as ever. TY.

  12. I enjoyed this article thanks, very useful. I wondered though what it would do to my search engine rankings to have all the comment happening on social media?

  13. Thank you so much!! Not only was this blog post incredibly helpful (as all your post are), but it was also extremely effective in engaging various types of learning! You’re the best!

  14. Great post, thank you for explaining it so well.

  15. I agree with Heather M about hating having to go to social media to see the comments. I want to see comments on social media, when I’m already on social media. Not when I found the blog or article through email, word of mouth, etc. It’s an extra step I won’t take. I encourage my clients to have their comments be open on both social media AND the blog. You can comment on either platform and share on either platform.

    The only problem I have with Facebook is that they pull the link images but skip some of them – the important ones! Then I HAVE to upload the photo and add a link in the caption – not something I like to do nor my clients. A lot of the photos that get pulled from the links are cut of and don’t fit properly. Suggestions?

    • Tom | Team LKR says:

      Hey Stephanie! Facebook actually has just the solution you’re looking for built right in. You’re right – sometimes it acts a little screwy with pulling images from the destination URL, so you have to do it yourself. You can still do it in the link preview format, though, instead of uploading as a separate image!

      So when you copy/paste the URL, you should see this:
      FB Image Preview
      As you know, the left/right arrows allow you to scroll through the images FB has automatically pulled from the URL – and that doesn’t always work perfectly. Right next to them, though, is that “+Upload Image” button, and that’s what you wanna use. When you upload a photo that way, you can choose any pic on your computer you want (instead of just the one FB pulled from the URL), AND it just drops it into the existing link preview template (instead of posting a photo update, which would force you to stick the URL in a caption).

      It can still be kind of annoying, because it adds an extra step where there shouldn’t necessarily be one, but it should solve the problem you’ve been having!

      • I will try that again. However, I have done it in the past and it THEN makes it seem like I’m uploading a picture with a link – not a link with a picture. Weird. Thanks tho I’ll try again!