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Facebook's newsfeed ads: What does it mean for brands?

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By Steve Richards, MD

August 17, 2012 | 3 min read

Facebook's announcement that it is set to integrate adverts within the newsfeeds of its users over a trial period has long been coming, says social media agency Yomego's managing director Steve Richards as the platform attempts to find a successful strategy around which it can monetise its offer. But is this what brands are looking for and what will it mean for them? Richards discusses.

The news that Facebook is trialling new ad units inside the newsfeed might upset some users, but it’s not really surprising. The trial is in keeping with Facebook’s ad strategy to date – a system of trial and introduction, giving people time to get used to new advert types.

But it’s also testament to the big pressures that the social platform is facing now it’s answerable to shareholders. The stress on the bottom line is clearly being keenly felt.

There are of course implications for users – and some unexpected implications for brands too.

The biggest effect for brands in the short-term is that roll-out of these ads could render their current strategies for Facebook defunct.

Many brands’ current approaches will be all about getting users on-board with a ‘like’ so that they can begin to market to them. But if these ads are rolled out, a brand with no followers but deep pockets can reach its target market, right in the news stream, without any fans at all.

However, these ads won’t be a holy grail. They will still require considerable targeting as ultimately, the end goal is to convert the impression to an interaction. In this regard they won’t be much different than existing sponsored stories / targeted ads – they will simply appear in a different place.

And of course, at the end of the day, intelligent brands shouldn’t want to throw adverts at users in the hope they accumulate likes. Engagement is still what matters – it’s about being relevant and compelling, however you get people on-board.

Will there be a backlash? Almost certainly. While some users may be used to having ads in and around Facebook, the general consensus is that ads aren’t what anyone signs up to Facebook for. The newsfeed is seen by many as a private space – where information from friends and family – and some trusted brands – appears. Facebook’s biggest strength may count against it, as consumers take to the platform itself to protest en masse.

But whether it is ads in the newsfeed or elsewhere, we can certainly expect more moves to make brands increasingly visible in the coming months, as Facebook tries to recover its share price. And with more visibility to users, the onus will fall on brands to be clever, engaging and – ironically – unobtrusive, in order to gain friends and influence people.

Social Media Yomego Facebook

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