Say what you will about Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, he’s been very smart about not irritating users with excessive advertising.
Whereas MySpace larded its interface with garish ads—and drove away users in the process—Facebook managed to keep its own advertising efforts relatively unobtrusive: no pop-ups, no annoying auto-videos, no banners crowding into peoples’ profiles. That’s one of the reasons why Facebook is still a major player in the social networking space, while MySpace was forced to morph into an odd music Website in a desperate effort to stay solvent.
But ever since Facebook went public, Wall Street has pressured Zuckerberg to deliver higher revenues. And since Facebook doesn’t charge users, it must rely on new ad formats for that cash—and perhaps cross a tripwire with users in the process.
“Since September, we’ve been testing a way to make videos more engaging on Facebook, and as a result we’ve seen views, likes, shares and comments increase more than 10 percent,” read a Dec. 17 posting in Facebook’s online Newsroom. “We’re beginning to test a similar video viewing format for advertisers.” The network will test these new video ads with a “small number” of people; the videos will run soundlessly in newsfeeds unless clicked or tapped, at which point they’ll expand to full screen.
“At the end of the video a carousel of two additional videos will appear, making it easy to continue to discover content from the same marketers,” the note added. “On mobile devices, all videos that begin playing as they appear on the screen will have been downloaded in advance when the device was connected to WiFi—meaning this content will not consume data plans, even if you’re not connected to WiFi at the time of playback.”
There’s no way to prevent seeing those videos, aside from simply scrolling past. And while Facebook’s latest ad rollout is cautious—it could have certainly opted to fatten the newsfeed with videos blasting sound—it may still irritate some users, who’ll no doubt loudly express their displeasure on their profiles. But how far can Facebook go with advertising before it starts annoying the broader community?