With the announcement on Wednesday that Facebook is opening up users’ newsfeeds to advertisers that aren’t connected to them, either directly or via a friend, it leaves the industry asking, what does this mean for users, advertisers and Facebook themselves?
Our experience has shown that newsfeed placements can significantly out-perform ads on the right hand side (RHS) of the page. The story-led formats display content that is relevant to users and while perceived by some as intrusive, “content seeking” users may welcome the additional stories. Getting into users’ newsfeeds is extremely attractive to advertisers, not only because it opens up access to Facebook’s vast mobile audience, but because the organic feel of sponsored newsfeed posts can increase response and combats the banner blindness that has come with the RHS formats.
The worry is that with more content being pushed into users’ newsfeeds, Facebook risk a backlash, with users upset a platform that used to be so personal to them is now including more advertising. However, there is an argument that Trending Articles have got users accustomed to the fact newsfeeds aren’t entirely theirs anymore and that any user backlash would have happened by now. Without doubt, there is some onus on advertisers to make their content more appealing to users (which has always been the case). Focusing on fans initially and testing appeal of content themes, before taking it out to a wider audience is a sensible approach, so that reaction can be gauged before it is exposed to those unconnected to the brand.
Regardless, it’s almost inevitable that many advertisers will not have content that users are actively going to want to interact with, but in their rush to be present on a platform that so much time is now spent on (almost 7 hours a month on average, per user), the perception of Facebook spamming users with irrelevant ads will increase. One of Facebook’s big, unique pitches is that they offer ads with social recommendations from friends, so allowing ads to go out to users without this is certainly a change of direction. However, it is not a surprise, as they look to utilise their massive reach to increase ad revenues in the wake of their IPO and big reduction in share price since going public.
What is certain is that Facebook will continue to test and develop formats that offer the best possible experience to users, but that can be effectively monetised to answer to the pressures of their increasingly demanding shareholders.
By Jon Harris.