Facebook warns publishers to avoid ‘watchbait’ tactics

Every couple of years, Facebook has tried its best to crack down on clickbait in the Feed. Now Meta, Facebook’s parent company, is warning marketers to avoid a new tactic they call “watchbait.”

What is watchbait? According to Facebook, watchbait is video content that “intentionally withholds information, sensationalizes content, or misleads viewers into watching or engaging with the video.” Watchbait can happen in the title, caption, thumbnail or within the video itself.

Here are six examples Facebook cited as using watchbait:

  • His Reaction Was Priceless!! 😂😂
  • And then his GF did this!!!
  • Absolutely mind-blowing details in the latest recipe from Kai!
  • Your bestie just sent a crazy message to your girlfriend! 😰😰😰
  • SHOCKING weather phenomenon could explode your plans!!!

Facebook views watchbait and clickbait as basically the same thing. See the language Facebook used about clickbait when it cracked down on it in 2014, 2016 and 2018

What will happen if a Page uses watchbait? If Facebook’s system detects watchbait in your video, the company says it will limit how often it is recommended and its ability to rank. If you regularly post watchbait, Facebook may reduce your page’s overall distribution.

You can read their Meta’s blog post and help doc on watchbait. But keep reading for quick “do this, not that” checklist to watchbait.

What not to do. In short, what should you avoid when publishing videos on Facebook? Don’t:

  • Omit key information
  • Use exaggeration
  • Use extreme language
  • Use excessive capitalization or emojis in the title
  • Create misleading expectations
  • Deceive users
  • Use Photoshopped or cropped images that aren’t taken from the video as your thumbnail
  • Portray staged, scripted or fake content as being real

What to do. So what should you do when publishing videos on Facebook? Do:

  • Use accurate, informative headlines
  • Add your voice
  • Be original
  • Be authentic
  • Use actual clips from the video as your thumbnail

Why we care. Watchbait results in disappointed or frustrated viewers, as Facebook noted. We all know that clickbait works – that’s why Facebook has to make changes like this every couple of years. Always make sure you’re giving something of value to your viewer – something that is relevant, helpful, useful, or inspiring. Deception may be great in the short-term or even expected in some specific industries, but the question you have to answer is: is it worth potentially damaging or destroying your reputation (and your discoverability and visibility) in the long run? 

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About The Author

danny goodwin search engine land senior editor

Danny Goodwin is Senior Editor of Search Engine Land. In addition to writing daily about SEO, PPC, and more for Search Engine Land, Goodwin also manages Search Engine Land’s roster of subject-matter experts. He also helps program our conference series, SMX – Search Marketing Expo.

Prior to joining Search Engine Land, Goodwin was Executive Editor at Search Engine Journal, where he led editorial initiatives for the brand. He also was an editor at Search Engine Watch. He has spoken at many major search conferences and virtual events, and has been sourced for his expertise by a wide range of publications and podcasts.

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