True, all headlines should serve the purpose of getting you to click, but some take a roundabout way of fulfilling their mission:
“When She Looked Under Her Couch Cushions And Saw THIS … I Was SHOCKED!” or “He Put Garlic In His Shoes Before Going To Bed And What Happens Next Is Hard To Believe.”
Headlines like these are known as clickbait. They intentionally leave out crucial information, or mislead people – and Facebook is about to put the kibosh on them.
This isn’t the first time Facebook has gone after these types of headlines. A few years back an update to the social network’s algorithm helped push down the presence of shady headlines; however, to this day users still see plenty of Pages that rely on clickbait.
“People are still telling us they would prefer to see clearly written headlines that help them decide how they want to spend their time, and not waste time on what they click,” Facebook said in a prepared statement.
To appease users, Facebook is using a system that identifies phrases that are commonly used in clickbait headlines.
They considered two key points here, which are important for marketers to know so that their crafted headlines don’t disappear in news feeds:
- If the headline withholds information required to what the content of the article is
- If the headline exaggerates the article to create misleading expectations for the reader
A good example is “You’ll Never Believe Who Tripped and Fell on the Red Carpet.”
This headline withholds information required to understand the article. It’s a tactic many folks use today as a way to increase web traffic, but thanks to Facebook, that approach will soon be completely ineffective.
Another headline example is, “Apples Are Actually Bad For You.”
This is a misleading headline because apples really are only bad for you if you have too many.
How will this impact your social media strategy?
Facebook claims that most Pages won’t see any real changes in their distribution in News Feed. But websites and Pages that do rely on clickbait-style headlines will all but certainly see a decrease in their distribution.
What can you do?
You should immediately stop publishing posts that use misleading or cryptic headlines. Misleading shouldn’t be an issue – good practices would have you never mislead your readers.
But Facebook’s crackdown on withholding information is troublesome. This can be extremely frustrating for marketers because a fundamental strategy for headline writing is to not reveal everything that your story is about. Otherwise, why would anyone need to click to read more?
It’s a careful balance that marketers will have to learn to cope with as Facebook monitors the impact of these changes. If your marketing strategy relies on traffic that comes from Facebook, then the it’s-better-to-be-safe-than-sorry approach is the most effective.
When socially promoting a piece of content, take the time to consider how you can entice readers to click, without misleading them or leaving them fully in the dark.
Take the red carpet example from above. Written as is, Facebook will likely not distribute it heavily into the News Feed. However, there’s a way to still create excitement without withholding so much information:
“You Have to See Jennifer Lawrence’s Epic Fall on the Red Carpet.”
With this updated article headline, the reader is now given the most important pieces of the content: the WHO, the WHAT, and the WHERE.
If you wrote a list article (Top 10 Reasons Why X, for example), a good approach is to include one of the list items into your social share as a way to encourage clicks.
For example, for an article titled: 10 Tips to Keep Your Dog from Having Accidents in Your House, your Facebook promotion could say:
#4) Get him crate-trained from an early age – Check out 9 other tips to stop your dog from having accidents now!
Now, more than ever, words matter
Many folks who market on social media do so casually. They’ll create a post online, then simply add the link to Facebook and share it on their pages.
But thanks to Facebook’s recent algorithm changes – which happen to fall closely in line with the changes constantly being made at Google – it’s important that you take the time to craft headlines and post updates that abide by Facebook’s rules.
The easiest way to do this is to ask yourself: Is this in the best interest of the reader? Will the average Facebook user have a positive experience from this post?
If you answered yes, then you should be in the clear.