There are 5 keywords that, when used in a post on Facebook, automatically limit your post's reach. Facebook has labeled the tactic in question as "Engagement Bait."
While Engagement Bait first started being penalized in the Facebook algorithm over a year ago, Facebook just recently began applying their penalties to video content, as well as to text.
In this episode, we cover the what, the why and the how of Engagement Bait, as well as some tips for avoiding it.
Full Episode Transcript
Here in Madison, there’s a music venue that used to run this really clever ongoing campaign — they would give away a free pair of tickets to an upcoming concert. To enter, all you had to do was tag the person you would bring with you in the comments if you won. Then they randomly selected one lucky responder to nab a free pair of tickets to the show.
But really, the biggest winner in this contest was the venue.
The contest cost them 2 concert tickets, but hundreds of people were identifying and promoting the shows directly to their friends. And not just any friends, but the friends they most thought would want to go to the show. So while two people got to go for free, hundreds of potential fans were being tagged by friends and notified that a show they might be excited about was right around the corner.
And not only that, the Facebook algorithm would have been going nuts seeing all of this organic engagement the venue’s page was generating. Every time someone tagged a friend, they were micro-targeting one person, but also telling Facebook that this content was hot and they should show it to lots more people. As far as the venue was concerned, this was a win/win.
And all it cost them was a pair of concert tickets!
I used to see this tactic employed on my Facebook feed all the time. You probably did too. And then one day, it just stopped.
That’s because in late 2017, Facebook labeled this type of content as “engagement bait.” And they started penalizing it in the algorithm.
Because Facebook can’t actually know your intention when you share a post, they defined engagement bait pretty broadly as simply any post that mentions one of the 5 following words:
It didn’t matter the context, using one of these words simply caused Facebook to devalue your content in the algorithm. Meaning they literally showed your post to fewer people.
As a marketer, this might be annoying. As a user though, you can probably understand why they did this.
While I loved that the concert venue was giving away tickets (I even won a pair once!) the tactic of asking people to tag their friends can get get to be pretty spammy. Like this post if your an Aries doesn’t do much to create meaningful conversations or connections online.
When Facebook first announced the new rules around Engagement Bait, they only applied to the text in your post. Then they updated it to also apply to text in the comments (as lots of clever marketers would simply make their engagement request in the first comment rather than in the post itself).
And now, Facebook has finally made the final jump — they will also demote content that uses engagement bait words (like, vote comment, tag and share) within the audio of a video.
While this might seem frustrating, just remember, it is genuinely in Facebook’s interest that you enjoy the content you, and everyone else, sees in their feed. If not, you, and everyone else, will stop logging in. And then there will be no one to market too anyway!
You can still encourage engagement, you just can’t do so using 5 key words. Don’t ask people to “respond in the comments.” Just ask your question. Your users know how to respond. And don’t ask for the like — create content they will like without being prodded.
Of course you can ignore these rules all you want. But Facebook ultimately decides how many people will see your posts. So ignoring their rules means limiting your own reach. The choice is clear as far as I’m concerned.
Engagement is great! Engagement bait — not so much.
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