Facebook’s “Sponsored Stories” Introduction Isn’t Well Received

As 2011 draws to a close, it looks as though various social networks are introducing their changes; all of which promise to make 2012 exciting when it comes to social media marketing.

The latest change to be introduced came yesterday when King of social networks, Facebook announced that it’d be introducing sponsored stories to the news feed of its users as early as January 2012.

When I first heard this news, I thought it was a case of déjà vu as Facebook announced a similar change in 2006; yet after negative feedback from its audience, removed the option in 2008.

Three years later, Mark Zuckerberg and his team have revisited the scheme and have come to the decision that 2012 is the year to introduce it as a permanent feature.

The cynic within believes that there can only be a handful of reasons why this decision has been made; with the main one being that as Facebook gets ready to be floated on the stock market, Zuckerberg and co. realise they need to bring in more revenue to make it an attractive proposition

Whatever the reasons behind introducing “Sponsored Stories” aka another advertising stream; it appears that the majority of industry experts and your average Facebook users are against the idea

Putting that aside, I’ve decided to take a look at what this latest revelation from Facebook will mean for both businesses who use the platform for their social media marketing; and for the average Facebook user.

“Sponsored Advertising” on Social Media Isn’t New:

Before we can look into what “Sponsored Stories” will mean for individuals and businesses using the network, it is worth remembering that “sponsored” advertising within social media isn’t new.

Along with Facebook originally launching a similar service in 2006; Twitter have been using “Sponsored Tweets” as a form of generating revenue via advertising since April 2010, since then they’ve added “Promoted Tweets” and a promoted accounts programme.

Twitter, however, seem to have found a balance of it being beneficial for businesses and brands to take advantage of, but discreet enough for users of the network not to get fed up and deactivate accounts.

How Will It Work?

From as early as next month, Facebook intend to integrate “Sponsored Stories” into the newsfeeds of every user, ensuring that they run alongside the updates, pictures and comments their friends and family post.

You’ll receive such a “story” within your news feed if someone that you’re friends with on the network “Likes” or “Comments” on an update posted by a brand they’re following – and those that are friends with you will receive “sponsored stories” by brands that you “Like” or “Comment” on.

Unfortunately, it appears that the sponsored stories will be the default function for all accounts, meaning that there won’t be any way to opt out of receiving such updates within your news feed; although a Facebook spokesperson has said:

“Starting early next year we will gradually begin showing sponsored stories in news feeds. Our goal is to do this thoughtfully and slowly.

“We hope to show people no more than one sponsored story in their news feed per day and the story will be clearly labelled.”

However, a screenshot which has been issued by Facebook shows that the “clearly labelled” isn’t as clear as some would expect / like.

What This Means for Businesses / Brands and Individuals on Facebook:

For businesses and brands using Facebook as a means of social media marketing; the news of “sponsored stories” showing up in news feeds of a wider audience will be encouraging and could see more businesses turning their attention to the content which features on their pages, in a hope to attract more comments and likes.

Yet, whilst things look promising for businesses and brands, for individuals, this latest announcement by Facebook could be seen as another reason not to continue using the site especially after the changes which have already been implemented to the news feed over the last twelve months.

If Facebook want to make sure that this time around their “Sponsored Stories” works, longer than the two years they previously ran it, they’ll need to ensure that it is beneficial for businesses and brands to sign up to; whilst remaining discreet enough not to impede the newsfeed of the everyday user.

Only time will tell whether Facebook manage to make the “sponsored story” update work or not; but one thing which is for sure is that 2012 promises to be an exciting and important year for all concerned within social media marketing as each platform introduces further changes and improvements.