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Facebook Kills Clickbait — How They Did It Will Shock You!

Businesswoman in panic looking at a computer screen

Remember the days when our Facebook feeds were overrun with headlines like “HAS SCIENCE GONE TOO FAR?!?!” and “He put duct tape in his car. The result? GENIUS!” Yes, those were the glory days. It seemed like just yesterday that Facebook was filled with clickbait headlines and articles that often provided the most mundane information — if they presented any information at all.

After years and years of this shady practice left users frustrated (at best) or, in too many instances, with their computers suddenly infected with a virus, Facebook has taken a stand against clickbait. The social media giant has changed its algorithm to detect these kinds of headlines and links. But, rather than just using a simple “yes clickbait/no clickbait” system, they take it a step further. How they classify clickbait will shock you!

Facebook’s New Algorithm

Essentially, Facebook is using a scaling system to determine whether a headline/article is clickbait or not. To do so, they have implemented two main criteria:

  1. Does the headline withhold information needed for the reader to understand the context of the article?
  2. Does the headline exaggerate the article and to purposefully mislead the reader?

In reality, nearly every headline you read on social media, even from reputable sources like The New York Times, leave out information from headlines. Otherwise, you would never click through to their website. However, there is a difference between leaving out contextual information and leaving out the “punchline” of an article. So, the new algorithm looks for certain phrases like “You won’t BELIEVE what happens next!” or “The answer will SHOCK YOU!”, similar to an email spam filter.

For instance, consider these two examples:

ajc benjamin franklin articleclickbait spraypaint nx2 news The first one, an article from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, obviously doesn’t reveal the exact buying power of $100 in Georgia. But, there is enough context to completely understand what the article is about without clicking through to it. (In case you were wondering, it’s $108.70.) However, the second headline is clearly designed without the context needed to understand the article. In addition, it’s completely overexaggerated and misleading — all the woman did was make curtain rods. And really, just buying curtain rods may be much cheaper and easier… but that’s an argument for a different time. 

Who Will Be Affected?

Hopefully, you won’t see any effect on your company’s Facebook profile. After all, as enticing as clickbait articles are, conversion-wise, they are a quick way to lose followers once they realize what you are posting. They are, admittedly, a great way to attract an older audience, but young people are especially sensitive to clickbait, especially since they have essentially grown up with it.

Some of Facebook’s most popular pages may see a drop in viewership. For instance, there are many celebrities, like George Takei and his husband, Brad, who share many clickbaity articles every week. Their pages may become less prominent on their followers’ newsfeeds if they continue boosting such stories.
george takei oh my gif

At the other end of the spectrum, the Stop Clickbait page, dedicated to revealing the “answer” to clickbait headlines, has had to change the way they work. Before the algorithm change, they would post a status spoiling the article, then add a link to said article. Now, in order to avoid being punished by Facebook, they have started posting screenshots of the articles instead. (Keep up the good work, guys!)

With Facebook’s new algorithm already in effect, it is crucial you know whether what you are posting is considered clickbait or not. It can come down to a few simple words you use in your company’s status update. Don’t want to risk the wrath of Facebook? Consult with the social media experts at EverSpark Interactive. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you.