Technophobe: In-feed Facebook ads

Megan Youngren/Sun Star Columnist
October 16, 2012

Initially, Facebook didn’t have ads. In “The Social Network,” there’s a scene showing the founders of the company having a conversation over drinks with a mentor figure. One of the points brought up is that before there could be ads, people had to be dedicated to the site so they wouldn’t just leave.

Once enough people were consistently using the site, subtle ads were introduced. Now, advertising is going to change again to be more prominent. There’s a new way to show ads based on what your friends have liked.

If you’re a Facebook user, you have probably already noticed these ads showing up in your news feed. Companies, celebrities and political or charitable causes can pay to have their pages advertised to the friends of people who have liked their pages. This is actually how it has been for a while.

The change is that ads are no longer just on the sidebar. They’re mixed in with the stream of statuses and photos. This is for consistency with the Android and iOS apps that can’t have a sidebar for ads. Now that ads can be front and center, your Facebook friends may ask, “So, you really like McDonald’s, eh?” If you’re the only one of a friend group who has liked a page that’s being advertised, your profile picture is shown right above an ad. When you pressed the like button for that company’s page, you probably didn’t think you’d be used like this.

Why is Facebook experimenting with such intrusive advertising? It turns out that their Initial Public Offering was not such a good idea. Going public means that stockholders can ask how you are going to make money. There’s a bit of panic going on as Facebook finds ways to make as much money as people thought they were already making.

Pressure from an angry group of investors who just lost money is likely the reason for the new type of ads. Facebook is always careful about pushing new advertising because if they go too far, it could scare away users.

Compared to its potential, Facebook isn’t making much money yet. A lot of hype helped them start off at a relatively high stock price. Their stock price dropped quickly after it became available. People had invested in their potential and it turned out that it wasn’t ready yet.

One of the actions they’ve taken since the IPO fiasco is remaking their iOS and Android apps from scratch. The apps are no longer in HTML5, which is web-code that’s good looking, customizable and reusable. This way of creating an app is limited by the speed of the browser backend made available for apps.

Each of these apps for mobile phones are now coded directly for their operating systems. They’re faster, more responsive and manage to look the same as their HTML5 predecessors. It’s a good reason to not just use the Facebook website in your smartphone’s browser.

Facebook’s HTML5 app might have been cheaper and easier to implement, but investing the time and money into coding the apps ‘natively’ makes for an improved experience. It’s important for Facebook to have people using the app, as ads cannot be blocked like they could be in a browser. ‘Mobile,’ as it is called so generically by Zuckerberg and other representatives at Facebook, is something they’ve fallen behind in.

What that means is that Google controls the ad market for smartphones and tablets, and Facebook wants that market from them. The advantage is indeed Facebook’s, with their massive amount of users and all the data they provide. Be aware of what you like.

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