Hack: Publishers Game Facebook By Posting Pictures As 'Videos'

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Credit: Illustration by Tam Nguyen/ Ad Age

If you can't beat the system, game the system.

Facebook has made it clear that it will prioritize and reward publishers who post video on the platform. But publishers lacking in video content need not worry: One new tactic involves posting static images in video formats -- like MP4 -- in order to rake in the eyeballs.

Turns out a picture is worth a million video views.

The fairly new tactic is being deployed by major publishers like BuzzFeed as well as relatively unknown players like ForShitsAndGiggles. In one example, an image of 22-words racked up more than 1.1 million "video views" on Facebook. In another, a meme that plays without sound for more than a minute sees over 1.4 million "video views."

And this 48-second "video" saw 6.4 million views in a two-week span.

Other examples include posting shorter so-called videos that last just a few seconds, but are little more than static memes.

Facebook told Ad Age it does not prioritize videos over other story types in News Feed, adding that it is "personalized" for the user. "If you typically like to engage with videos, you will likely see more videos in your feed," a spokeswoman said. "We are always improving News Feed to show the most relevant stories – this includes working to make sure people don't game the system."

Still, Russ Torres, VP of video content and strategy at USA Today Network, said Facebook is a big advocate of promoting video.

In regards to using images as videos, Torres said, "It's certainly not a technique, tactic, or test that any premium publisher like USA Today Network would entertain as it doesn't align with our values," he said. "That said, in this hyper social world we live in, I certainly understand the motivation in creating content for the quick hit, or to grow your page in likes, and-or shares."

Credit: via Facebook

In fairness, BuzzFeed has some animation in its posts while publishers like ForShitsAndGiggles are merely posting static images. Younger audiences are also increasingly speaking in GIFs and memes.

"They aren't exactly comparable publishers," said Susan Bidel, a senior analyst at Forrester. "As far as Buzzfeed is concerned, I imagine that they are experimenting with formats, as all smart publishers should."

The social media giant serves video ads in the News Feed and according to a recent study it conducted, videos posted average 5.7 seconds of view time. Videos that aren't ads, meanwhile, see 16.7 seconds a view.

Ad Age reached out to BuzzFeed and ForShitsAndGiggles for comment and will update this post when we hear back. You can tell us what you think, though, by taking this poll:

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