Facebook puts ads RIGHT IN YOUR FACE!

Poor old Facebook; the once untouchable social media monolith is having a bit of rough time at the moment. Once the toast of everyone from your best friend to your auntie, it’s starting to resemble Sideshow Bob in a field of rakes, lurching from one disaster to the other…except without the hilarious consequences.

You could probably add ‘outrage at any changes to Facebook’ to ‘death and taxes’ on the list of life’s inevitabilities, but the outrage at the latest change is probably as justifiable as getting angry at a free service can be as Facebook announced that adverts would now be appearing in your newsfeed, even if you don’t ‘like’, on Facebook or otherwise, the company advertising.

Facebook Advertising in Newsfeed

This isn’t a widespread change yet, and its uncertain when it’ll be rolled out site wide, but it still managed to cause a lot of angst online and in the mainstream media, even making the front page of so-good-I-still-refuse-to-take-one-even-though-it’s-free newspaper ‘Metro’. True to form, everyone’s favourite drama klaxon the Daily Mail broke the news as if The Zuck was planning to personally transmit vintage cigarette adverts into the eyes of every child under five a la ‘A Clockwork Orange’. Note the capitalisation of ‘newsfeed’ for dramatic effect, headline fans.

The newsfeed adverts will appear much like a ‘normal’ post on Facebook, except they will be marked with a ‘sponsored’ tag, much in the same way as ‘sponsored tweets’ are on Twitter. The move represents the first time Facebook has brought a commercial element to the heart of the Facebook experience, with ads confined to the sidebar which everyone ignores in the past.

But why would Facebook stage such a <hyperbole>dramatic betrayal of our trust</hyperbole>? Well, one theory abound is that Facebook’s recent relationship status change from ‘in a relationship with Wall Street’ to ‘Gordon Gekko’s Worst Nightmare’ has got investors spooked and could lead to Facebook’s share price plummeting even further than it has so far.

Basically, Facebook needs to find a way of addressing investor doubts about the business’ money-making prowess fast and advertising is one potentially huge area of income that Facebook, to put it kindly, isn’t exactly making the most out of at the moment. For example, how many of you have actually clicked on a Facebook ad in the past month? In fact, how many of you can recall who was advertising the last time you were on Facebook?

The hard truth for Facebook is that most users have become accustomed to the ‘stuff we want to see’ and ‘advertising’ divide dictated by the layout of the site and thus can block out the part they don’t want to see. Therefore, shoving the advertising into the bit people actually look at, as much as it may irk users, seems like a logical solution.

For a business looking to invest in a Facebook advertising campaign, the benefits of the new model seem obvious. For one, it means that people will actually look at your advert rather than blocking it out completely. It’ll also make advertising appear more ‘natural’, almost as if a ‘friend’ is recommending your services. Well, a really annoying friend who’s constantly trying to sell you their stuff, but a friend all the same.

The move will hopefully lead to better returns for advertisers too – or at least some improvement on the pretty shocking 0.051% average clickthrough rate currently boasted by Facebook ads. Of course, there’s always the chance that an advert that may have gone ignored on the sidebar could capture the imagination of a user and, as well as getting them to click through, could also encourage them to start engaging with your brand on a regular basis through ‘liking’ your brand page.

One of the main criticisms regarding the new ad plan was the fact that it represents even more advertising on a page already littered with ads. While I personally don’t have a problem with the amount of ads in the current Facebook layout, having ads in the right sidebar and the main newsfeed does seem a bit excessive. It’ll be interesting to see what Facebook does with that sidebar with the introduction of newsfeed advertising – hopefully it won’t just be left as a dumping ground for even more ads.

There’s also the potential for users to leave the site – although ‘quitting Facebook’ has become a threat almost as empty as vowing off drink after a particularly heavy night out. There’s certainly the potential to negatively impact the overall user experience, however.

From a brand perspective, advertising in the newsfeed could potentially lead to the development of negative brand perception on the part of the users. Of course this is just speculation, but there’s the possibility there that users might question the sort of businesses that would dare to enter their sacred newsfeed and pay to advertise their wares in their ‘personal space’.

It’ll certainly be interesting to see how newsfeed ads go down in practice; from a personal perspective, I can see the ads proving a source of annoyance to begin with before they just become part and parcel of the Facebook experience – much like sponsored tweets and Twitter. Whether or not that’s a good thing is up for debate.

On the whole though, paying for ads has never been the most effective form of Facebook marketing and I don’t think putting ads in the newsfeed will change that. Instead, brands should put their efforts into building a strong Facebook presence built on positive interaction with their customers rather than relying solely on one-way advertising.

Image Credit: newrisingmedia.com

  • Written by on 20th August 2012 at 11:40
  • “Fluid Creativity is an award-winning, multi-service digital agency based in Manchester.”
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