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Facebook offers up user content to advertisers

Thursday, 27 January 2011 | By Michelle Hammond

User-generated Facebook content will soon be turned into advertising, with the social media site announcing a new “sponsored story” option for advertisers.

 

When users either check in to an online store or click the “Like” button for a brand, advertisers can pay for a sponsored story, allowing them to transmit the users’ actions on their friends’ pages.

 

According to Facebook, this will allow advertisers to promote word-of-mouth recommendations people have already made on the site, which otherwise may be lost in the mass of links, photos, status updates and other content.

 

There is currently no way users can decline this feature. However, the advertising will maintain the same privacy setting as the user’s original action, which means any sponsored stories can only be seen by the same group who was privy to that action.

 

The promoted content will also appear on the right side of users’ homepages rather than in their home feed.

 

Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Centre, says Facebook is making a profit off a person’s name or likeness without their consent, which he labels as “subtle and misleading”.

 

But Facebook says any form of advertising on the social media site is effective and businesses should consider sponsored stories as part of their marketing approach.

 

“The best form of recommendation is one you get from a friend, but this has always been difficult for marketers to plan and it doesn’t scale,” it says.

 

“On Facebook, companies and organisations are already seeing the benefits of marketing that includes people and their real friends through its core ads product – more effective, more engaging and more personalised marketing.”

 

According to Facebook, sponsored stories give companies another way to do word-of-mouth marketing, which fits naturally into the way people use the site on a daily basis.

 

“Like news feeds, it’s just another way to share and see what your friends are doing. Some actions people take with companies, products or apps on Facebook will appear not only in the news feed but also as sponsored stories on the right side of the page,” it says.

 

Facebook says sponsored stories will include page “Likes”, application plays, place check-in and page posts stories.

 

“For example, if I check into a local Starbucks, an organic story may show up in my friends’ news feeds that says I checked in there,” it says.

 

“A sponsored story may also appear on my friends’ profile or homepage with the same check-in story. This creates another way for businesses to drive predictable word-of-mouth marketing between friends at scale.”