The popular response to the announcement that Facebook will start adding unsolicited ads to everyone’s news feed is, “Google+, here I come.”
Posting ads to non-fans, is one more step in Facebook’s push to become a profitable purveyor of advertising space and even though it’s only a test, folks are already crying foul!
The outcry comes in two parts. First, are the Facebook users who don’t want to see their news stream cluttered up with ads. Facebook says their being careful not to overwhelm users with too many ads at one time, but face it, some people are going to run at the first glimpse of an ad they didn’t sign up for.
The crazy thing is, every free service runs ads. It’s how they raise the money to keep the lights on. Watch TV, listen to the radio, even Hulu’s paid service runs ads in the middle of the program. That’s intrusive. That’s keeping me from enjoying my media, but a skipable ad on my news feed — no big deal. It’s the price you pay for keeping Facebook free, people.
On the other hand, we have the outcry from business who see this as a slap in the face. Say you’re a brand who has spent considerable time and energy to build up a fan following. You’ve even paid for ads that show up in the fan streams. Now, Facebook comes along and lets your competitor send ads to your followers. No sweat equity, just cash up front and the space is yours.
There is an upside. With the new system, brands will be able to communicate with potential new customers, not just nudge the old ones over and over again. It’s certainly a better ad format for expanding a brand’s reach, if it’s effective. Initially, people may balk at the sight of an unsolicited ad, but with time, they’ll get used to them. Then, one day, they’ll see a deal they can’t resist and they’ll take a bite. Non-Fan news feed ads could become Facebook’s most valuable asset, as long as they don’t lose half their users while they ramp up.
Do I really think people will abandon Facebook in favor of Google+? Not over a few ads, no. But Google can dream, can’t they?