Facebook News Feed ads: How many is too many?

Starting in January, Facebook will include advertising within news feeds to generate additional revenue. But the social network needs to tread carefully.

Starting early next year, Facebook plans to allow advertising within news feeds to generate additional revenue streams.

Facebook users will begin to see 'Sponsored Stories' adverts filtered gradually within news streams on the main website beginning in January 2011.

(Source: Flickr)

The adverts will be marked as "Sponsored", and will currently only feature stories related to 'Likes' of the user in question -- or their friends. Users will not have the option to turn off advertising in their feeds; although they will have the means to 'cross out' adverts individually.

Facebook spokesperson said: "Our goal is to do this thoughtfully and slowly. We hope to show people no more than one Sponsored Story in their News Feeds per day and the story will be clearly labeled."

In order to control a negative backlash, Facebook will have to integrate what must be an advertiser's paradise very carefully.

Facebook's goal is to introduce the adverts 'slowly' in an attempt to control angry reactions and the potential exodus of users who are already not happy with the Facebook Timeline.

It would be foolish to assume the limiting rate of one per day will be a permanent feature.

Facebook has not shown advertising in news feeds since 2008. But if the scheme generates a considerable income for the social networking giant, there is every possibility this limit may be a thing of the past.

Yes, this could work. By including adverts in such an organic way, advertisers will be clawing at each other for the chance to fill Facebook coffers. There is a guarantee that the ad will be viewed. Not only are users scanning what their friends are doing, they are also internalizing adverts at a rate far higher than right column sponsorship.

If you want to use the Facebook news feed functionality, you will have no choice but to view the advertising.

It could be a smooth enough transition for Facebook users to not really notice or care. However, if Facebook chooses to get greedy and include too high an advertising ratio too quickly, this could impair the current user experience.

Facebook needs to be careful.

Privacy concerns are high with what I imagine as many a student spending sleepless nights currently deleting and hiding the skeletons that the Facebook Timeline has blasted out of the closet, but adding additional advertising may be the final straw for some.

One per day isn't likely to cause an incredible amount of fuss -- but will we experience a later rollout of three? Five? Ten?

Where would you draw the line and lose patience?

The social networking website's great advantage is the high quality user experience; the merit which has over time made it a powerful, global player online, with millions of users and more joining every day. However, turn the features which make it special in to advertising billboards, and don't expect everyone to hang around.

In the same way a website with continual pop-up ads give me irrational anger, I may just become infuriated enough to 'cross out' the Facebook window.


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