For almost half a decade now, Facebook sits at the throne as the top social networking platform. The site is currently 800 million users strong, and continually growing. One of the ways Facebook has maintained its title as top social networking site, is by constantly innovating and changing with the evolving technology and desires of its customer base.
It seems as though the layout of the website is tweaked at least once a month. Whether new features are being added, removed, or the layout is just being rearranged, Facebook is constantly evolving, and Sponsored Stories are the latest addition to the social media giant.
Sponsored Stories are a new ad format which integrates information from your news feed, into advertisements. Up until this point, ads were reserved at the right column of the Facebook web page. With the Sponsored Stories, the ads are more personalized to your and your friend's activities. For example, if a friend updates his status and mentions a specific brand, marketers have the opportunity to feature the status update as a part of the advertisement that shows up in the right column of the web page.
Advertisements have always been a controversial aspect of Facebook and social networking in general. It doesn't cost users anything to create an account and use social networking sites, like Facebook or Twitter. In order to make a profit, Facebook and other sites like it, rely on advertising. Essentially, anything that you add to your profile, including photos, videos, status updates and comments is fair game for advertising companies. Your information is sold to marketers who create personalized advertisements on your page. The Sponsored Stories advertising format is simply taking personalized ads to the next level.
Facebook may be taking advertising cues from its primary competition. Earlier this year, Twitter rolled out a very similar advertising format. Like Facebook, Twitter is free to users and relies on advertising to generate revenue. Twitter used to also keep promoted Twitter accounts and advertisements on the right column of their site. Recently, however, the company introduced promoted tweets, which show up periodically in the user's timeline.
Although Twitter and Facebook users have done their fair share of complaining about the new advertising formats, it doesn't seem to cause any kind of lasting dent in user activity. A few hundred people threaten to cancel their accounts every time a change like this takes place, but there doesn't seem to be any lasting consequences. After all, its not as though advertisements cost users anything to continue to enjoy the free social networking sites.
In some ways, Sponsored Stories may even improve the user's ad experience. Instead of poorly crafted ad headlines, the advertisements are simply added to relevant stories and status updates from your contacts. With Sponsored Stories, the advertiser is no longer controlling the message in the ad. The ads are still quite scarce and with more personalized marketing, can actually be useful in helping users find discounts for products and services they are interested in.