Facebook calls its new pilot program to put more advertising in your newsfeed a “small test.” But that small test could lead to a big gamble.
The new program, for the first time, lets marketers display ads in the newsfeeds and mobile feeds of people who have not liked, or whose friends have not liked, certain brand, according to the L.A. Times. Users may end up seeing more ads as Facebook tries to use information beyond explicit likes to select ads they’ll respond to.
Facebook spokeswoman Gwen Belomy declined to say how many users are being targeted in the pilot program or which advertisers are participating. “This is a small test, and we’re constantly gathering feedback from people on how to improve our ad experience,” she wrote in an email.
In the past, Facebook encouraged users to like brands based on friends’ recommendations. Now it appears to be shifting gears, according Benjamin Kosinski, founder of Sumpto, an online platform that measures the social influence of college students. The social network’s new approach is to introduce users to brands actively, he said, and it’s a risky strategy. By recommending brands to like, Facebook is doing what it previously relied on your friends to do.
“Many users are OK with seeing what their friends like and are doing, because they are connected with them both in the real physical world and online,” Kosinski said. “However, when Facebook tries to predict and introduce certain brands to users, this could turn a lot of them off.”
Nicholas Kinports, founder of the digital marketing company Lonelybrand, described the move by Facebook as “bipolar,” in that it seems to be a step away from the word-of-mouth advertising strategy of old.
“The only way this will work as a short- or long-term model for Facebook is if the ad targeting is so precise that users actually appreciate receiving new messages and offers,” Kinports said. “That’s a fine line to walk.”