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Facebook Clamps Down on Video “Watchbait”

Facebook is taking a tough stance on something it calls “watchbait”, and listen up, because it’s important to know how and why this approach could impact your video marketing.

Watchbait is the visual version of clickbait. Facebook says videos are watchbait if they:

  • Sensationalise content.
  • Withhold key information.
  • Mislead viewers about the true nature of the video.

Meta for Media

“These tactics can be deployed in any part of the post or video, including the text, thumbnail, or content of the video, and ultimately are used to lure or bait people into watching the full video.

Watchbait is bad news

While it might be good for your engagement stats, watchbait is bad because it leaves viewers feeling hollow and empty inside. Just like with anything, if your expectation is completely different from reality, it’s going to leave a sour taste.

And for marketers, presenting your brand in a slightly devious way can never be good for the bottom line – even if bosses are happy with your engagement numbers. It will damage your reputation, discovery and visibility. So don’t do it.

Temptation is constant, and for marketers, that manifests in sensationalising aspects of their videos to increase engagement and video views. While creating tempting titles that draws viewers to your content is good practise, purposefully creating misleading titles or thumbnails is watchbait and will be punished.

Common watchbait traits

Facebook says watchbait videos share some pretty similar traits. There’s normally a pretty bold statement in the title, such as ‘His Reaction Was Priceless!!’. Or titles can be made up big capital letters ‘THIS IS THE WORST WAY TO WAKE UP’. Alternatively, some watchbait employs heaps of emojis, and has a video description that provides little or no context.

It’s worth noting that a lot of popular videos on Facebook share a lot of these traits – but Facebook has had enough and it is watching. So make sure you change up your approach.

Tactics to avoid

Some other examples of Watchbait headlines marketers should avoid include:

  • SHOCKING weather phenomenon could explode your plans!!!
  • Your bestie just sent a crazy message to your girlfriend! 😰😰😰
  • Absolutely mind-blowing details in the latest recipe from Kai!

These titles sensationalise the video content but will generally leave viewers feeling let down. They also withhold key information to create an arbitrary curiosity gap and mislead users about the true nature of the content. Content using those tactics, withholding, sensationalism and misleading, are classed as watchbait.

Meta wants brands to use informative headlines to give viewers a clear understanding of the video, use thumbnails that are clips from the video and not manipulated or photoshopped and add a unique voice that drives conversation. For marketers, this will help establish an original and authentic brand and should help to grow your audience.

Big Brother is watching

Facebook doesn’t explicitly say how it identifies watchbait, which might make some marketers nervous, especially if their headlines cut a little close to the quick. There is a system, you’d presume to be AI-based, that scans videos to look for watchbait. 

If it picks them up, then Facebook will take action.

Facebook says that if it detects watchbait in your video, it will reduce its distribution and can even punish the Page for repeated violations.

“We use a system that detects watchbait holistically across a video post and, if detected, reduces its distribution. Videos that are considered watchbait may not be recommended to viewers and/or may receive limited ranking.”

Dos and don’ts

Facebook has posted a clear list of dos and don’ts when it comes to watchbait. Here they are in full:

Do

  • Post titles and descriptions that set appropriate expectations; accurately describe the video someone is about to watch.
  • Use informative headlines and captions so people get a clear understanding of your video.
  • Use thumbnails that display actual content from your video and represent the content accurately.
  • Add your own voice to help drive genuine conversation. This helps establish originality and authenticity in your content and enables people to decide how they want to spend their time with your post.

Don’t

  • Don’t rely on missing information to lure viewers into watching; avoid intentionally omitting key details.
  • Don’t exaggerate or sensationalize the topic. Avoid excessive capitalization or excessive use of emojis in the title and description or text overlay.
  • Don’t use thumbnails with exaggerated or photoshopped scenes or reactions that are not actually present in the video.
  • Don’t present fake or staged outrageous or dangerous incidents as real CCTV video or “caught on camera” recordings.

Learn with SMK W/C 16th May 2022

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SMK Labs running this week

Mon 16th May: Member Clinic from 1 pm – 2 pm AEST
• Live help and support from SMK’s team of analysts
• Book in to request a personalised discussion for 15 or 30m via Zoom within the Facebook Working Group

Tues 17th May: Member Clinic from 1 pm – 2 pm AEST
• Live help and support from SMK’s team of analysts
• Book in to request a personalised discussion for 15 or 30m via Zoom within the Facebook Working Group

Weds 18th May: Tech Lab from 1 pm – 2 pm AEST
• Working alongside SMK’s renowned strategical
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Thurs 19th May: 2022 Social Media Video Masterclass, 10 am – 12 pm AEST
• The first module in SMK’s new digital marketing training course

Fri 20th May: Conversion Rate Optimisation Masterclass: 10 am – 12 pm AEST
• The first module in SMK’s new digital marketing training course

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