Last month, reports came out that Facebook would be launching sponsored stories in the news feed this month. Now, it appears that has happened.
According to Inside Facebook, a spokesperson for the company said the feature is now live, though I’ve been unable to find any sponsored stories in my own feed.
Sponsored stories themselves are nothing new. Basically, they’re regular news feed stories from your friends that have been promoted, after the fact, by an advertiser. “These stories only show up for friends, so you can learn about places to go, apps to use, games to play and organizations your friends like,” explains Facebook.
Here’s a video about the ads:
What is new is the placement in the news feed itself, which will give the ads much more valuable placement. This is generally the part of Facebook users gravitate towards. They’re more likely to get eyeballs and clicks. Our own tests at WebProNews indicate that Facebook click rates declined substantially after recent platform and design changes such as the Facebook Timeline.
If you compare Facebook to a search engine like Google, this kind of ad practice has some similarities and differences. Both feature ads in both the column, and the “body” (the news feed in Facebook’s case, the search results in Google’s case). Both are labled. A couple of key differences are: 1. Google presents the body ads in a colored box to make them stand out and make it more clear that they are ads, while Facebook only presents a small light gray link that could easily go unnoticed (screenshot here). 2. Google doesn’t actually have the ads sprinkled throughout the body, but only at the top and/or bottom. Facebook’s sponsored stories may appear throughout the news feed.
Given the fact that Facebook spam is on the rise, people may want ads to be as clearly marked as possible.
Facebook is launching these news feed ads just after a judge basically gave people free rein to sue Facebook for using their likenesses in ads (granted, that doesn’t mean that such suits will be successful).
Users can hide the stories, just like other types of posts. You can click hide to remove individual stories, limit the volume of stories you see from specific friends to “only important posts” or stop seeing certain kinds of stories altogether (unfriending the person or unliking a page).
Of course, there’s always the possibility that one of your own updates will be sponsored.
“Some of your stories may be featured. But you always determine who can see the stories you share. If a story does get featured, it's shown to the same people you originally shared it with,” says Facebook.