Facebook attempts to tackle fake news = content marketing warning
According to reports circulating that wide web of internet, the latest trial to hit the world’s most iconic social network may be aimed at reducing the level of misinformation being posted.
Fake news has been all over the real news of late, with propaganda being blamed- rightly or wrongly- for a year of major political upheavals. Facebook is seen as a major source for this fakery, and people are demanding more is done to try and help users separate the chaff from the wheat they actually want to eat. Or read. Or watch.
According to The Drum, a select group of accounts holders are being asked to provide feedback on how they felt towards headlines- were they deceptive, obstructive of the truth, perhaps guilty of misdirection? Take a look:
Spotted this survey at the bottom of a Facebook post earlier. Must be part of a crackdown on clickbait. Interesting ??????????????? pic.twitter.com/wZbLhof9k1
— Tom F (@_tomaf) December 2, 2016
Clearly something needs to be done about the rise in utter nonsense, but what about headlines that are satirical, or over-dramatised to pull readers in to a story which is accurate, just hard to sell in and amongst sexier, more immediate options?
Clickbait comes in two forms. The first is perhaps not deplorable, but pretty annoying. Headlines that would suggest one story, but actually lead to something completely different, with the headline created from conjecture and drama, or even lies, and tacked on to irrelevant information. Then there is the tactic of grabbing attention quickly, and leading people to something that may be far more complex a topic than could really be conveyed in an SEO-friendly headline. What’s there is valuable, but not necessarily what the reader was expecting.
Both are arguably commonplace in content marketing. The practice sells something- whether that’s a product, service or idea- by talking about and presenting it in a wider context. It cannot resort to blatant advertising because otherwise there would be no need for it to exist- brands would just opt to spend the same money on straight up ads.
Right now, Facebook’s survey system is very much in beta and may never see the wider light of day, but it does offer a suggestion of the most likely ways in which clickbait and fake news will be targeted, in turn re-emphasising the need to produce quality content on behalf of companies, avoiding smoke and mirror tactics.
Interestingly, despite many corporate blogs opting for a ‘grab ’em then see if they stick around’ approach to content creation, this has long been a very bad idea. This piece for Biznology- Don’t chase the buzz– suggests several reasons why; not least reputation and brand perception, along with the almost-definite failure to live up to the hype of professionally written articles of this kind. Research-driven marketing agency, Deveney, also put together 3 reasons why clickbait advertising is damaging your brand– citing audience disappointment, inaccurate traffic numbers (many people don’t spend long on clickbait pages), and the fact social media channels are trying to manage this problem out of the picture.
Even Upworthy, which has laid claim to being one of the fastest growing websites in history and is widely seen as a big provider of clickbait, has apparently observed a reader shift towards headlines that do not fall within the (somewhat subjectively measured) clickbait territory. And experts are predicting online success will increasingly move away from ‘more is more’ to favour quality, or at least both claims in this paragraph are true according to this piece on 5digitalquotes.
This in itself raises a whole host of issues- including the fact that digital editorial needs more cash if it is to finance well-researched work, rather than thrown-together bits. Of course brands are (hopefully) not in exactly the same predicament- they can produce content in house where necessary or allocate budget accordingly to hire in scribes- but it is worth noting the tides are turning from many directions, so ignoring them risks being lost at sea.