Facebook readies new 'sponsored' ad format

Facebook is testing a new ad format that will see brands’ page posts appear in the news feeds of users, regardless of whether they or their friends are fans of that page or not.

Facebook sponsored ad

How the new Facebook ad format will look

The ads will appear on both desktop and mobile and will look like other page post ads in the news feed – although they will be labelled “sponsored”.

They follow a similar format to Twitter’s promoted tweets, trends and accounts, which are served to users even if they do not follow that particular advertiser.

It will allow advertisers to push their pages or promotions on their pages at scale in the lucrative news feed, rather than just appearing on the right-hand side of a users’ screen. It differs from the currently available sponsored stories format, which requires a user’s friend to have liked the advertisers’ page before an ad is served to them.

Facebook says the roll out of the new format is currently in beta and that it is constantly gathering feedback from people on how to improve its ad experience.

Introducing such formats so overtly in the news feed may be at odds with users, however, according to Luke Brynley-Jones, founder of consultancy Our Social Times.

He says: “Facebook and Twitter are both pushing users to the limit of what’s deemed socially acceptable - for one obvious reason: each incremental incursion into your privacy represents a potentially lucrative new income stream.

“What’s interesting is that they are doing this under the radar. Even large, unwieldy corporates learn from their mistakes.”

Last week Facebook rolled out beta testing for another new ad unit, which is aimed to help developers drive downloads of their applications. The format sees ads placed directly into mobile users’ news feeds, with links to download apps from iTunes or Google Play.

Facebook says it has driven 146 million visits to iTunes and Google Play in the past month via its app centre and user posts in the news feed, timeline and bookmarks.

The social network has come under pressure from investors since going public in May to introduce more revenue streams to secure its long-term financial viability. Its shares are currently trading at $20.38 (£13), 46 per cent below their IPO price.

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