Facebook blocking spam: parallels to email filtering


Last month a Dangerous Minds posted numbers that indicated their Facebook posts were reaching fewer users.  They suggested that this was a conspiracy by Facebook to make more money and soak small publishers with “exorbitant” advertising fees. I didn’t pay that much attention to it. I use Facebook to communicate with friends. The only commercial entities I “like” or are “friends” with are small local businesses that I shop at.
Today, I see a tweet from Ben Chestnut that looked intriguing.

When a company implements changes that seem batsh*t crazy (w/no official explanation), spam is usually the reason http://tcrn.ch/U9S7lk

I started thinking about the changes my clients had made over the years when trying to recover from spam issues. Redesigning their databases, sending out reconfirmation emails, long term re-engagement campaigns are all things clients have one over the years.
The linked article, however, has nothing to do with that. The article talks about how the decrease in reach Dangerous Minds saw had to do with Facebook making it easier to report spam.

Each news feed post has a drop-down arrow next to it that lets users hide it from their news feed or mark it as spam. Facebook made these controls more visible and easy to use in September. That let people who thought a Page was spammy report it to Facebook or remove it from their feed.
At the same time, Facebook updated EdgeRank to more aggressively punish spammy Pages, the way Google updates PageRank occasionally to push down the search result rank of spammy sites.

It wasn’t that Facebook was trying to suck money out of successful pages, it was they were trying to make the user experience better by giving users content they wanted to see and limiting the amount of content that users don’t want to see.
The parallels with email filtering are clear. ISPs want to deliver mail their users want and limit the amount of mail that users don’t want. But when ISPs make changes to their filtering algorithms there are inevitably complaints from senders who think their mail shouldn’t be the target of the new algorithms. Occasionally they’re right and the algorithms are rolled back. But, sometimes, that mail is exactly the target. Most recipients don’t really care that the mail doesn’t show up any more, if they even notice. They just notice a nicer inbox experience.  Those recipients that do miss the mail can get it in their inbox if they want.
This is another example of user feedback affecting marketing reach. If users are given the opportunity to give feedback about mail (or posts) they don’t want, they give that feedback. This feedback drives filtering decisions and can result in marketers discovering their marketing isn’t always welcome by the targets.

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1 comment

  • It is true that marketers sometimes forget that maybe what they are sending is actually not wanted and someone has given negative feedback that has resulted in them being marked as spam .

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