Talking to anyone with a website startup for a long enough period of time ought to lend itself to the mention of SEO, links, keywords, etc.
For those of you lucky enough to have avoided this vacuous aspect of startup culture, pretty SEO entirely revolves around getting other sites to link certain keywords to your site so you can do better in search results.
Additionally, Reddit, the social network with little homogeneity and a plethora of regulation, moderators, and hostility towards non-community members, is infamous for a practice called shadow-banning.
On Reddit if you get reported by moderators too much, which is not hard to have happen, then your account gets “shadow-banned” meaning that you can still post, like, comment, etc. except you won’t be able to tell that your actions are not actually happening.
These two practices have become intertwined with the means in which people approach the two platforms. Yet, no one even realizes that both are extremely real on Facebook at this very moment.
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How Shadow Banning Works on Facebook
When you pull up Facebook to check the news on the death of Muhammad Ali or other trending posts with thousands of comments, how does Facebook organize the comments based on popularity? Likes and replies has a bit to do with it, but the most liked and or comments are not always at the top of list. Furthermore, how can Facebook tell the difference between a link being shared 1,000 times or 1,000 accounts being hacked and forced to share a link to buy ray-bans for $30?
The answer is similar to Google’s method of ranking search results: checking the authority of users sharing the links, how many times it is being shared, the timeframe of the comment, etc. This is probably a good time for me to assert I do not work at Facebook, I have not seen Facebook’s code, and am merely using anecdotal evidence of what I have seen happen on the social network.
My company, Everipedia receives a large portion of our traffic from Facebook and have seen first-hand that as more and more people would share our links, we began rising in position on large posts’ comment sections as well as getting more interaction off of posts with links in them.
While there may be an argument that with more sharing we were simply becoming more of a brand name and therefore saw better conversions, and I would love for this to be the case, we are still a new site at less than a year old and most social referrals are first time visitors attracted by particular trending articles. For this reason, it seems unlikely our boosted power on Facebook stems from an increase in consumer adoption, but rather some set of external factors regulated by Facebook.
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It makes sense for Facebook to keep this under wraps, since the more SMO (Social Media Optimization) becomes a thing, the more people will aim to game the system as was done with Search Engine Optimization. Also, Facebook is willing to penalize people who try to reduce the quality of content in an attempt to boost their domain’s authority on the network.
I have read repeatedly that approximately 10 percent of Facebook accounts are fake, but have always wondered where this underbelly lay, since the amount of interaction most users have with fake accounts is nowhere near this one-in-10 statistic. As the curiosity began to eat away at me, I decided to check it out, see how easy it was to make a fake account, and what this experience was like, by making my own alter ego.
As I was trying as much as possible to not send off any red flags to Facebook, it was inevitable that I could simply not keep everything legitimate. I did not have a limitless supply of pictures of a random person, I did not have the time or desire to like, post, comment, etc., and as this new digital person had no real friends that posed the biggest problems.
With time I made every action in my power to play it off as real, got more than 1,000 friends, and seemed to have tricked the system. However, after another short bit, I noticed I was not receiving anymore friend requests, my posts and comments were not getting any likes or replies, and overall things seemed dead. Knowing this feeling from a few troll Reddit accounts I had that were shadow banned, I can only assume that Facebook took a page from their competitor’s book.
What Does This Mean for Your Company?
Succeeding in this modern world requires that you succeed on the social networks. You need as many people talking about you and sharing your links as possible. Before backlinks and keywords dominated the realm of search traffic, mentions, tags, followers, and likes deem whether your traffic grows or dies.
Unfortunately for all of us, Facebook knows that businesses try to game the system. This makes it hard to get conversations going, since they prevent you from igniting the spark. If you want to make sure your SMO works in your favor, you will need to put extreme planning into your fake accounts. Pretend they are real people and act as such. From there your company will thrive.