Starting in January 2012, Facebook will gradually begin showing Sponsored Stories social ads in the main news feed of the web version of the site, a representative of the company tells us. Facebook hasn’t shown ads in the news feed since 2008, so this has big ramifications for advertisers and the user experience.
The ads will be marked “Sponsored” and a rate limit will ensure users see no more than 1 Sponsored Story in the news feed per day. They’ll only feature stories about friends or Pages that users already like. Users won’t be able to opt out of seeing Sponsored Stories in the news feed or having their activity used in them, but they will be able to ‘x’ out individual ads. The ads won’t immediately appear in the mobile news feed, though Facebook is considering the idea as we discussed earlier this month.
As marketers it is good to be prepared to take advantage of this opportunity. Facebook appears to be doing a slow roll by only showing one ad per day in a feed. Despite that restraint, it is likely that the initial backlash from the Facebook loons who cry foul about the injustice of ads in their free service that has changed their communications with people, will be loud and shrill. If the past is any indicator, however, it will also fade away in short time.
The complainers are already out. Check out a few of the comments from the TechCrunch post.
There are a few dissenting voices who see this as not such a big deal in the comments but most are off in “Facebook is evil / stupid / gonna drop my FB account / This will finally push me to Google+” land.
Of course, Google would love to see everyone have some kind of epiphany to decide that this would be the thing to get them to actually sign up and use Google+ but it won’t. I believe that in the long run Google+ will do just fine not being a Facebook killer but rather a very real alternative for the right kind of consumer. Silly thought isn’t it?
So as a marketer how do feel about these ads appearing for the first time since 2008? Is this something you want to take advantage of? As a user how do you feel about sponsored posts / stories in your feed?
Last question (I promise), is there anything inherently wrong with Facebook looking to make money on its service?