Facebook is testing an option for advertisers to include sponsored content in the company's new Ticker feature. Yes, that's right: the social network is essentially allowing ads into its second News Feed.
Here's a refresher: the Ticker is basically just a second unfiltered News Feed to the right of the main one. It's a real-time stream that shows you all the new status updates, Likes, comments, photos, and so on that your Facebook friends are posting, as they're posting them. Facebook still hasn't rolled it out to everyone, but it is slowly pushing it out to more users.
Now back to this new ads thing. Typically, ads on Facebook appear on the right-hand side of the website in their own section(s). The first ads on Facebook were originally labeled as Sponsored, and clearly tried to sell you a service or company following a standard format. The second set ads were labeled as Sponsored Stories, and they were no longer as obvious since they could be worded to look like any other posting on Facebook.
These latest ads are still on the right-hand side, since that's where the Ticker is, and are also labeled as Sponsored, but they're being meshed in between user-generated content. While Facebook will undoubtedly argue that the Sponsored label is there, the placement is still questionable. The company seems to be slowly blurring the line between organic and sponsored content.
Social networks are free online services, and like anything online, ads are what make this possible. For social networks and advertisers, this is change is a good thing: if a piece of sponsored content looks more like organic content, users are more likely to click on it.
For users though, this is not good news. Ads should be clever, relevant to the user, and promote something valuable. You should not have to be tricked; if those requirements are met, it doesn't matter if an ad looks like an ad or not.
Facebook is playing a dangerous game. It could start to lose the trust of its users as its ads are increasingly integrated into the service.
- Facebook rolls out the Ticker to more users
- Facebook moves privacy controls inline, simplifies sharing
- Facebook working on unfiltered News Feed, expanded Like button
- Facebook testing homepage with separate News Feed scrolling