Why Facebook Should Judge Content Quality

The new Facebook changes only push businesses to be better at content

by Jason Falls |

My friend Brian Carter wrote a thoughtful criticism of Facebook’s new content quality analysis over at Convince and Convert last week. In it, he said that Facebook shouldn’t be judging content quality and that doing so will hurt small businesses.

Fundamental to Brian’s argument was the notion that Facebook is now going to punish lower-quality posts from businesses that try to “game” their way into the newsfeed. The way most are reporting this news, that means photo memes — text over photo elements that are easy, visual and like-worthy pieces of content — are now going to be judged bad by Facebook.

Brian wrote, “This action is a huge shift in Facebook’s modus operandi. It’s new for them to make a judgement, outside of what people interact with, on the quality of the type of content.”

The problem with Brian’s assertion is that it’s incorrect. And the problem with his opinion, in my opinion, is that he’s wrong. Here’s why:

First, Facebook has no way of judging the quality of the type of content other than social gestures. The Like, Comment and Share is the only way Facebook can really even know if a post is a “meme” or not … at least without manual review, which I can promise you won’t be happening. What Facebook is asserting with the new change is that they are going to start looking at pieces of content that have a lot of likes, but no shares or comments and rule them to be “meme-like.”

They’re able to do this because they surveyed users who interacted with content and asked them questions like, “Would you call this a low-quality post or meme?” and “Is this content genuinely interesting to  you or is it trying to game News Feed distribution?” By comparing the survey results with the social gestures (Likes, Comments and Shares), Facebook can (theoretically) triangulate trend that reasonably predict when a post is lower quality.

Facebook is only pushing us all to be better at providing relevant, engaging content. And that is never bad.

It’s easy to “Like” something. It takes effort to Comment or Share. Thus, lots of likes, but low corresponding Comments or Shares and you can assume or assert lower quality.

The definition of Facebook’s process aside, though, I also disagree with Brian’s assertion that Facebook shouldn’t be judging the quality of a post — regardless of how they measure it. Facebook, like Google, benefits from continually improving it’s algorithms to surface the most relevant content to the individual in question. By amplifying the learning, tweaking and customization of one’s browsing experience, you make the browsing experience better, more relevant and more satisfying.

Without this type of quality analysis and prioritization, Facebook would just keep getting noisier and noisier. This way, your new stream continues to get more and more relevant. This will keep you, the user, on the site longer, have a more relevant and satisfying experience and allow Facebook to continue to both grow and charge more for ads that it displays to such an engaged audience.

Brian does correctly make the point that this approach may hurt small businesses. But I would argue it only hurts the ones who are bad at providing good content. If you have to rely on gimmicks like memes to engage your audience, you need to learn to step up your game, or be satisfied with the lower engagement scores your content will now receive.

Facebook is only pushing us all to be better at providing relevant, engaging content. And that is never bad.

Sure, there are some who would say it shouldn’t be Facebook’s place to tell us what is or isn’t good or bad. But having that opinion is showing a complete ignorance for how the web works. Facebook is the only entity that can truly measure and tell us how well our content does there. If we don’t like it, we can always to play on MySpace.

About the Author

Jason Falls

Jason Falls is a leading thinker, speaker and strategist in the world of digital marketing and is co-author of two books, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide To Social Media Marketing and The Rebel's Guide To Email Marketing. By day, he leads digital strategy for Elasticity, one of the world's most innovative digital marketing and public relations firms. Follow him on Twitter (@JasonFalls).