Help our magazine not be seen as spam by Facebook
September 1, 2020 2:00 PM   Subscribe

We've been trying to grow our social media presence. Lately (I'd say it's been the past three or four months, but the last six weeks especially), Facebook is actively working against us. How do we get Facebook to allow our content?

We put out an award-winning B2B publication. The subject matter is very (heavy) industry-specific. We have real reporters and produce news and articles that are fact-checked and original. We're doing real journalism based on original interviews and research. Theoretically, this is the kind of stuff Facebook says its wants.

We post our content to our Facebook page. That's fine. We don't have a huge following, so we're trying to get our content out to a wider audience. As part of doing that, our publication has joined approximately two dozen (give or take) Facebook groups that relate to the industry we cover. We post our articles to those groups (or to the relevant ones, as not all of the articles fit directly with the topics of the individual groups). We usually post a link to the story on our website and post a paragraph from the article or a paragraph explaining what the article is about.

If it matters, we use Google Analytics Campaign URL Builder to create trackable URLs that identify the posts as Facebook and Facebook Groups posts (it makes it easier to see where our hits originate, and a lot originate from Facebook Groups).

For no discernible reason whatsoever, these group posts trigger Facebook's spam prevention process. A notice pops up saying: "Your post goes against our Community Standards so only you can see it. See options."

That leads to screens that "explain" the problem. They state: "We use either technology or a review team to remove anything that doesn’t follow our standards as quickly as possible.
We use the same Community Standards around the world for everyone on Facebook.
Different regions of the world have their own review teams trained on the standards.

Our standards on spam
We don't allow people to get likes, follows, shares or video views in a way that's misleading to others.

We define spam as things like:

• Repeating the same comment
• Getting fake likes, follows, shares or video views
• Coordinating likes and shares to mislead others about the popularity of something

As far as I can tell, nothing we're doing contravenes these rules. The only grey area is the "repeating the same content" one, but we're not reposting the same post multiple times. Each group only gets one post about the article.

Sometimes all the posts are allowed through. Sometimes a handful of them are triggered as spam. Sometimes all of them are marked as spam. I can't find any common ground about what triggers that spam slap down and what doesn't--with one exception. It seems as if the word "COVID-19" appears in the headline or the text or the URL, that's practically an automatic spam label (which is ridiculous, because the pandemic has certainly affected the industry, and we're reporting on its affects on the way business operates). Still, knowing that, we've been avoiding posting anything that contains the forbidden term.

Every time the spam notification comes up, we dispute it, but that's a process that seems to futilely lead to nowhere.

So what I need to know is what, if anything, can we do to still post our content to groups and avoid triggering the spam process. Do we just stop posting to groups? It would be nice if we could avoid that, as it has helped us grow our web traffic significantly (or at least significantly for us). Do we use one weird trick to slip our stuff by the spam censors (and if so, what's the trick)?
posted by anonymous to Computers & Internet (8 answers total)
I’m guessing you’re triggering the limited original content filter. It’s been a while for me but other than members of those groups labelling your posts spam (which they may, especially if they are seeing you post in multiple groups) that’s my best guess.

But I also think you’ve misinterpreted Facebook’s view of publisher content. They definitely do not want great content off-site (unless you are paying to boost posts.) If you’re creating informative Facebook posts, using Stories, or rolling out video within Facebook, that’s content for them. A paragraph (especially if it’s the same paragraph across your page + groups) and a link is NOT what they mean. This is exactly what triggered the whole “Facebook‘s algorithm kills media advertising” debacle. So if you find a rollout that works that’s awesome.
posted by warriorqueen at 2:37 PM on September 1, 2020 [3 favorites]

Wikipedia says that " Spamming is the use of messaging systems to send an unsolicited message (spam) to large numbers of recipients for the purpose of commercial advertising..." well it goes on for a while, but that is what you're doing right there in the first sentence. If you want to advertise on Facebook you need to pay them.

I can see the argument that by posting to groups that are relevant to your trade you think it's not unsolicited, but Facebook clearly disagrees.
posted by tiamat at 3:23 PM on September 1, 2020 [6 favorites]

Are you sure this is happening automatically and not because someone in the group is reporting your content as spam? I would check the individual rules for those groups. Some groups are more aggressive about not wanting content that's more promotional type stuff (even if that means self-linking). Also, are you posting as your page? Or is one of your editors posting content? If you have one person or page posting similar content to several groups around the same time, that might hit spam filters too. That is the same content, just posted to different groups.

My suggestion, if you're not doing this already: have an editor/writer/actual person with their own legit FB account (not one with a fake name they create just for this person) post the content to those groups and vary the wording a bit for different posts. It also really helps if they are genuinely engaged in that group and not only posting content. Are they responding to other content, for example? Are they picking up on the etiquette and issues in those groups? Since they are relevant to your content, you can probably get good information about the industry there, too.

It's been a few years since I was in a position to do this, but paying Facebook to promote your content to targeted audiences can be really effective. They want to drive clicks and interactions when you pay for it. You can target your audience pretty well with their astounding number of filters and options. It might be worth trying this approach. Facebook wants your money, so they're going to figure out how to get it from you, but they also want to give you some value for that money.
posted by bluedaisy at 3:48 PM on September 1, 2020 [2 favorites]

This totally sounds like spam to me, I would report such content in groups that I am a member of, and the business pages that I manage would never engage in this kind of activity. This is not organic sharing of content to groups, even if the group itself allows self-links. It likely reads as tone deaf and self-promotional, especially if you are not otherwise engaging in those groups. A handful of reports by members of those groups could easily get all your content flagged for a while.

To build viewership of your posts by your followers, you should pay for boosted posts. To get more viewers to like your page, thereby seeing more of your posts, you should be paying to promote content to the targeted audiences of those groups. You're trying to advertise your content, you should pay for it and it should be marked for the ad that it is. If it's really good content, your followers will share it to those groups organically. If YOU'RE sharing it, it's an ad.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 4:04 PM on September 1, 2020 [11 favorites]

I moderate a niche group on Facebook that people need to be apply to join. It's really obvious when someone has joined only to promote their own projects. I don't know the details of your posts, but if your promotional posts are your only engagement in those spaces then yeah, it probably does feel like spam to them.
posted by eisforcool at 4:50 PM on September 1, 2020 [3 favorites]

Mod note: This is a followup from the asker.
To answer the questions posed by the commentators:

We post as our page, but we also engage with the groups (including those who gave us permission to join) by liking and commenting on other people's posts. We can take into consideration the suggestion to post as an individual person, but really it's the magazine's brand we want to build.

This is definitely automated, as in we make a post and within seconds it gets flagged. When we contact the moderators of the groups (especially those that are most relevant to us and those we are most heavily engaged with) they have no clue that it's happening or why it's happening.

This has happened even with a single post to a group, so not repeating something that was previously posted to another group.

We tend to get really good reaction from the participants in the groups, as evidenced by their comments or their likes and shares.

We are aware that Facebook is a money-making organization that lives on advertising and selling data so we understand that it really doesn't want to help us promote ourselves unless we're willing to fork over cash. We also understand that it only seems to pay lip service to the ideas of original content and actual journalism and is instead a platform better set up for spreading dubious content and wild conspiracy theories, but even still, we figured there must be ways to get it to not slap us down at every turn. (Personally, I've always been of the opinion that Facebook is corporate evil, and I've strictly avoided it in my own life. I never had any reason deal with it at all, until it became part of my current job duties. I'd be more than happy to have the whole thing go away, but sadly, I've done a good job of promoting the publication on the platform and really making it one of the top ways people find our magazine's website.)
posted by cortex (staff) at 6:23 PM on September 1, 2020 [1 favorite]

What you're describing is pretty much FBs definition of spam, even if people like the content and you engage with the groups in other ways. Spam in this case means you are using FB to build your brand without paying. They really, really dont like that.

You can try to find a loophole, but I caution you that if you keep getting flagged you'll likely be looking at a full on ban for your page. If FB is an important target market that is nettting you ROI, play the game and do a small boosted post campaign or something to appease the algorithm overlords. If it isnt, perhaps your brand building efforts could be redirected elsewhere.
posted by ananci at 7:45 AM on September 2, 2020

We can take into consideration the suggestion to post as an individual person, but really it's the magazine's brand we want to build.

You seem to feel like this wouldn't build your brand? You can have individual people share posts from the magazine's facebook page. People can visit your website from these posts just as easily as if the magazine page shared them.

Basically facebook is blocking you because they want to sell ads if you have a page. Posts from individuals will reach more people than even a post that escapes blocking.
posted by yohko at 6:43 PM on September 2, 2020 [1 favorite]

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