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Facebook wants users to stop asking for likes

By Gene Marks

Special to The Washington Post

There are more than 70 million small business pages on Facebook as well as billions of users. For many freelancers, publishers, bloggers, celebrities, small business owners and corporations, Facebook is used not only to engage a community but also to show off to others — prospective customers or clients — just how big their community is. To do that you need likes, so it’s common to find many on the social media site begging for others to like their pages.

Well, Facebook wants that to end. Why? Their audience tells them that for many, it’s just too much noise.

“People have told us that they dislike spammy posts on Facebook that goad them into interacting with likes, shares, comments, and other actions,” two company representatives said in a company announcement. Starting this week, the company said, it would begin “demoting individual posts from people and Pages that use engagement bait.”

If you aggressively build your Facebook audience to expand your business, be forewarned: During the next few weeks, Pages that “systematically and repeatedly use engagement bait to gain reach in the News Feed” will be subject to demotion.

What is “engagement bait?” Requests for users to “vote on your goals,” “follow this page if you’re an Aries” or “share with your friends for a chance to win a new car!” are all considered to be “spammy” things done to reel in potential followers. Facebook wants to encourage users to follow pages where there’s engagement, authenticity and better web experiences, and to avoid those that send out sensational or misleading information.

The company draws the line at posts asking for help or recommendations, raising money for a cause, searching for a missing child or asking for tips. If you’re doing those things you’re OK.

So as you head into the new year, and if your Facebook presence is an important part of your business, you may want to readdress how you’re gaining likes to your page and possibly adjust what you’re doing. Otherwise, it looks as if Facebook will make those “adjustments” for you.

Marks is an author and a certified public accountant who writes for The Washington Post’s On Small Business blog.

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