Facebook's "Engagement Bait" Ban: What It Is & What It Means for You

On December 18th, Facebook announced that in the coming weeks they will be introducing an algorithmic change which "will begin demoting individual posts from people and Pages that use engagement bait."

What does this mean for Facebook marketers? Will it effect how you promote an online contest?

This article will break down exactly what engagement bait is, what the algorithm change means for you, and what you can (and can't) do.

I'll also be providing a few recommendations and showing a couple safe Facebook post types you can use moving forward.

Let's get rolling!


What is engagement bait?

Engagement bait is a tactic to create Facebook posts that goad people into interacting, through likes, shares, comments, and other actions, in order to artificially boost engagement and get greater reach on News Feed. - Facebook's Newsfeed Guidelines

Starting soon, Posts and Pages that use this tactic will be demoted.

Essentially, Facebook is concerned that marketers have become aware of a way to "game the system" by prompting their Fans and Followers to engage with a Post. Engagement (like a "Like," Comment, Share or "reaction") has always been viewed by Facebook as a signal that the consumer appreciates the value of a publisher's content.

And that won't change. What will change, however, is that Facebook will now be able to recognize when a publisher is intentionally prompting Fans and Followers to engage with their posts solely to boost organic reach.


A few examples of engagement baiting posts:

React baiting: Asking people to React to the post:

engagement bait

Share baiting: Asking people to share the post:

engagement bait

Vote baiting: Asking people to vote using reactions:

engagement bait


A real-world example of a timeline contest which will no longer be possible with Facebook's update:

A real-world example of a Post which may also be banned with this update, from REI:

engagement bait ban


What this means for you

If you're not publishing "engagement bait" content, this update means nothing.

If you're correctly using Facebook to promote your products, generate brand awareness through high-quality content, quotes, user-generated content, video and all the other best practices, you're fine.

If, however, you're still marketing on Facebook like it's 2012, you may have an issue.

Don't get me wrong: I used to recommend engagement bait as a best practice. But that was several years ago and times change.

Facebook has decided that there are two ways to market on their platform: "boost" your content with paid promotion, or stop messing around with strategies to hack their algorithm and just create truly valuable posts.

Essential Reading for the Modern Facebook Marketer:

If you want to get the most out of Facebook, I recommend checking out "How to Build a Complete Facebook Marketing Campaign from Start to Finish" and "52 Facebook Marketing Ideas," as they're the most comprehensive guides I know on the subject.


What this means for your next Facebook contest

Ah, here's the rub...

This update all-but bans the running of a Facebook contest on your timeline.

For many businesses, it was a no-brainer: take advantage of one of the most powerful ways to generate social media engagement (contests) without having to create an independent contest page on your website.

Unfortunately, this update does a very effective job of removing that option.

So what does that leave you with?

It leaves you with the option to host a Facebook contest on your website (or a Facebook tab) and drive traffic to it through a Facebook post which functions the same as any product-promotion post.

And honestly, that's better anyway, because running a contest off your timeline allows you to get way more engagement: you can encourage people to engage on other social media platforms, generate leads, and collect user-generated content - all things you couldn't do with a timeline contest.


Facebook post examples which still work

Use a Facebook post to notify people about a contest, without telling them to engage with it on your timeline:

engagement bait ban

Use video to showcase a recipe which uses your product to entice people to buy but also educate them:

engagement bait ban

Use customer-generated content to get your community engaged (and the original contributor will share as well):

engagement bait ban

Conclusion

This is a big deal, don't get me wrong. The example from REI above (the "real-world" example) shows how easy it can be to slip into engagement bait.

But, so long as you're aware of it, post great, relevant, high-value content, and don't seek to "game" the system by prompting people to engage with your Posts, they'll do it organically and you'll be fine.

And yes, this does have an effect on your ability to host contests on your Facebook timeline, but by hosting off-site and using a third-party contest platform like Wishpond, you'll get better results than you possibly could have with a timeline contest anyway.

Facebook is still the largest collection of prospective customers in the world. Don't let this get you down. There's still huge potential for growth.

Have any questions about the engagement ban? Don't hesitate to reach out in the comment section below.


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Written by James Scherer

James Scherer is the content editor at Wishpond. When he's not writing or designing for Wishpond he's risking his life biking around the city. Reach out to him on Twitter @JDScherer.