In an effort to improve transparency, and provide more guidance as to how it shows users to content within their feeds, Facebook has today published its Recommendation Guidelines, which includes a listing of topics and themes that are ineligible to be highlighted within its various discovery surfaces.
As explained by Facebook:
“We make personalized recommendations to the people who use our services to help them discover new communities and content. Both Facebook and Instagram may recommend content, accounts, and entities (such as Pages, Groups, or Events) that people do not already follow. Some examples of our recommendations experiences include Pages You May Like, “Suggested For You” posts in News Feed, People You May Know, or Groups You Should Join.”
In order to ensure that these recommendations don’t amplify rule-breaking content, Facebook has a range of rules as to what content is eligible to be displayed in these lists.
The strategy behind such involves removing content that violates the platform’s Community Standards, while also seeking to reduce the spread of problematic content which may not violate those standards, as such, but still provide a poor user experience.
“Through our Recommendations Guidelines, we work to avoid making recommendations that could be low-quality, objectionable, or particularly sensitive, and we also avoid making recommendations that may be inappropriate for younger viewers. Our Recommendations Guidelines are designed to maintain a higher standard than our Community Standards because recommended content and connections are from accounts or entities you haven’t chosen to follow. Therefore, not all content allowed on our platform will be eligible for the recommendation.”
This is important information for Facebook marketers to note, as there may be elements that apply to your Pages, depending on the sector your business operates within, your past history on the platform, what you choose to post, etc.
Facebook says that there are five categories of content that it allows on its platforms that may not be eligible for its recommendation surfaces.
Those categories, in detail, are:
- Content that impedes Facebook’s ability to foster a safe community
This section includes:
- Content-focused on self-harm or suicide
- Content that depicts violence, sexually explicit or suggestive posts
- Content which promotes the use of certain regulated products (e.g. alcohol or prescription drugs)
- Updates shared by any non-recommendable account.
There are several parameters for brands in certain categories to be aware of here – a brand in the adult product market, for example, might need to be careful about the imagery it uses, while alcohol and tobacco brands are no doubt already well aware of the regulations pertaining to their industries.
The last point is also one to note – if you choose to share content from borderline Pages, even if your Page didn’t post the original, you could still lose exposure opportunities through Facebook’s recommendation surfaces.
- Sensitive or low-quality content about health or finance
This includes posts which:
- Promote or depict cosmetic procedures
- Updates containing exaggerated health claims
- Content attempting to sell products or services based on health-related claims (such as promoting a supplement to help a person lose weight
- Posts which promote misleading or deceptive business models (like payday loans)
Most businesses in these categories would be well-aware of their limitations in this respect, with Facebook rolling out various new rules and restrictions in these areas over the last couple of years.
It is worth noting, however, that even if Facebook allows your Page to post content in these categories, you may still be losing out on exposure opportunities because of Facebook’s rules around what it will display in recommendations listings.
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- Content that users broadly dislike
This focuses on things like:
- Engagement bait
- Contests and/or giveaways
- Posts which include links to low-quality or deceptive landing pages or domains (i.e. websites loaded with ads)
This one is pretty self-explanatory – if your Page is identified as sharing clickbait, you’ll see less exposure potential.
The note on ‘contests and/or giveaways’ is probably the most relevant point of note – this means that Facebook’s systems essentially won’t help you amplify your promotions through its recommendation tools. You can still rely on sharing (within Facebook’s rules) to boost your competition posts and promos, but they’re not likely to appear in content recommendations (like ‘Suggested for You’) post listings.
- Content associated with low-quality publishing
- Unoriginal content, largely repurposed from another source
- News content which doesn’t include transparent information about authorship
- Content from websites “that get a disproportionate number of clicks from Facebook versus other places on the web”.
I don’t imagine many business Pages are “re-purposing” (i.e. stealing) content from other sites, but it’s another point worth keeping in mind.
It could be worth noting for brands that have multiple Facebook Pages under one company – if your strategy involves taking updates from your main company Page, then re-posting them to other, affiliated, accounts, that could be limiting your reach potential.
The last point relates to a measure that Facebook added to its News Feed algorithm last year which focuses on sites that essentially seek to game the Facebook system. If a site is getting lots of clicks from Facebook, but nowhere else on the web, that may suggest that it doesn’t have a lot of authority, in general terms, and could provide a lesser user experience.
- False or Misleading Content
- Claims that have been found false by independent fact-checkers
- Vaccine-related misinformation
- Content that promotes the use of fraudulent documents (e.g. someone sharing a post about using a fake ID).
Fairly straight-forward – if you’ve received a notification about posting misleading content, you can expect that your updates won’t be seen by as many people.
In addition to these five categories, Facebook also avoids recommending accounts that have violated its Community Standards, have repeatedly shared content that violates the above rules, have been banned from running Facebook or Instagram ads, or are associated with offline movements or organizations that are tied to violence.
Facebook also reduces recommendations accounts which have been found to be engaging in misleading practices to build their followings, such as purchasing ‘likes’. Facebook has been ramping up its action against those that purchase likes and followers, and this is another way that the platform is taking action against those trying to cheat the system.
In case you need this underlined – don’t buy followers and likes. It’s not worth the risk, provides limited passing benefit, and ruins your audience data. Just don’t do it.
Instagram also has a similar listing of regulations for its recommendation surfaces (available here), which cover the same focus points as those noted above.
It’s good info to have, especially from Facebook, which doesn’t tend to be overly forthcoming on how its internal systems operate.
It is worth reiterating that these regulations only apply to Facebook’s recommendation surfaces (‘Pages You May Like’, ‘Suggested For You’ posts, ‘People You May Know’, or ‘Groups You Should Join’, etc.). Pages that post content related to the above areas may still be able to operate on Facebook and build followings through shares and engagement. But Facebook will seek to limit their additional exposure through its recommendation options where it detects concerns relating to these areas.
How much of an impact that has is hard to say, but more exposure is obviously better. So best to stay within the rules wherever you can.
You can read Facebook’s full listings of recommendation restrictions for Facebook and Instagram.