Facebook announced today that it will start incorporating ads into its newsfeed early next year. It will be a part of the Sponsored Stories ad campaign that Facebook started a year ago, which integrated some of people’s friends’ activities into an ad platform. Facebook representatives insisted that the ads will be used sparingly, and the most popular ads will stay in the newsfeed rotation the longest. Less popular ones will have a shorter lasting time. According to Facebook, most users won’t see more than one ad a day on their newsfeed.
Adding ads to such a popular website can be a tricky situation. If Facebook adds too many of them, there becomes a good chance that users will complain about it and accuse Facebook of ‘selling out’ their product in order to make a quick buck. Ads that are too glaring and distracting to the eye can have the same effect. Facebook will need to be very careful not to rock the boat too much in order to avoid backlash.
Facebook can look to Twitter, its sometimes-rival, sometimes-partner in crime for a great example of how to effectively include advertising. When Twitter announced that it was going to start adding sponsored tweets to people’s feeds in August, the Internet buzzed that this could be a jump-the-shark moment for it. But the tweets weren’t obnoxious, didn’t stand out more than any other tweet on the newsfeed, and could easily be removed and be gone forever. Plus, there weren’t very many of them in the first place. There was very little backlash to the move, and Twitter has earned itself a new revenue stream without alienating its users. If Facebook can emulate that same strategy, these ads won’t be an issue. But an unfortunate decision here may put a major dent in Facebook’s reputation, which could be more costly than any advertising revenue.