With an IPO coming up later this year, Facebook is shifting its focus from acquiring users to working out how to make money from them.

One of the first steps they have taken is to introduce ads in Facebook users’ News Feeds. The launch has been staggered,  so if you haven’t seen it yet, it will be coming to you soon.

Adverts in your News Feed

Yes, you heard that right. Between the pictures of your pal’s snowboarding trip and the viral video of the Fenton-du-jour, you’ll be seeing ads from companies.

Technically they will be called ‘Featured Stories’, not ads.  They will also be limited to a Page’s latest Facebook post, showing that a friend of yours ‘liked’ their page or checked in.

Companies will be able to place ads in the News Feeds if they have a link to a user in either of two ways:

– Users who have already liked the brand/company
– Friends of users who have liked the brand/company (regardless of whether they liked them)

* See below for further clarification!

Example of a ‘Featured Story’

This is what a post will look like.  Note what users will see should they mouseover the word ‘Featured’.

Prepare for the uproar

Facebook claims that the average user will only see one ad per day…’unless you visit your News Feed a lot’. Oh, that’s okay then.

There have been a few complaints about Timeline, but on the whole users have accepted the changes and got on with it. That’s exactly what Facebook will be hoping users will do with News Feed ads.

What this means for brands

The truth is that this is a great opportunity for brands, if handled in the right way.  Once the uproar dies down there will be an excellent new way to talk to Facebook users.

The introduction of News Feed ads means that ‘Friends of Fans’ is no longer a useless statistic.

Previously it was unrealistic to think you could reach all ‘Friends of Fans’ – every single one of your Facebook Fans would have to share, comment or like one of your updates to achieve this.

But with News Feed ads, the ‘Friends of Fans’ figure genuinely becomes your potential reach.  Take a look at your Insights and see what a difference that makes.  You can expect the numbers to go up 100 to 300 times.

How to make it work…

The key to making News Feed ads work will be to ensure that brands only use valuable content. You should know from your Insights which of your posts are the most viral.

Keep it interesting and Facebook becomes even more of a potent marketing tool than it was already.

 

 

* If there is any confusion about what is allowed and not allowed, this statement from Facebook makes it clear as mud…

Since people can see marketing messages from both Pages they have and have not Liked, we want to make it clear that marketers can only pay for stories to be featured in your News Feed if you have explicitly liked the Page. And because you are always connected to your friends, we are also labelling stories from your friends that have been paid to be featured in your News Feed as ‘featured’ to keep things consistent.