Facebook announced this week that it is making some improvements to the News Feed function on its site.
There will be two updates, the first is to help reduce click-baiting headlines, and the second is to help people see links shared on Facebook in the best format.
‘Click-baiting’ is a method where publishers post vague links with a headline to encourage people to click on it to see more. Posts like these usually get lots of clicks and the more they are seen by people the higher up in your news feed they appear. In a post published in its online newsroom Facebook said it will reduce the amount of click baiting on its site so it “does not drown out the things that people really want to see…”
The problem with click baiting is that the publishers do not give enough information about what you will find once you have clicked the link. More often than not the story that you are clicking through to does not usually live up to the standards that the headline promised.
A survey conducted by Facebook found that 80% of the time people preferred headlines that helped them decide if they wanted to read the full article before they had to click through.
Just because a link has many click rates it does not necessarily mean the article is of any interest to the user. Usually they will only spend a matter of seconds on the article before realizing it is of no relevance to them and end up hitting the ‘back’ button anyway. With this new change Facebook will monitor the amount of time users actually spend on the article once they have clicked the link and see how many likes, shares or comments the post has to determine how they will rank the story in your News Feed.
The second change is to do with how you, the user, see links that are shared on Facebook. Currently the way that a link appears in your News Feed is with a large picture accompanied by a headline and with some text that gives context on the link and some publishers share links in their status updates or in the text captions above photos like the examples below:
Facebook has found that “the best way to share a link after these updates will be to use the link format. In our studies, these posts have received twice as many clicks compared to links embedded in photo captions. In general, we recommend that you use the story type that best fits the message that you want to tell – whether that’s a status, photo, link or video.”
In theory your post will get more clicks if you display your link in an actual link format, how it appears when you copy and paste a link in a draft document for example.
So how will these changes affect our Facebook experience? Well it will certainly ‘weed out’ the ‘spammy’ type stories that are on our News Feeds, but apart from that I don’t think we will see any major changes, after all most of us automatically scroll past these stories anyway. But publishers may be affected with Facebook saying that ‘a small set of publishers’ who post links with ‘click-bating’ headlines may see their distribution decrease in the next few months.