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Posted at 10:13 AM ET, 01/27/2011

Facebook 'Sponsored Stories' turn you into the ad

By Rob Pegoraro

Your clicks of Facebook's "Like" button and check-ins at restaurants, stores and other establishments are already valuable marketing material. Now Facebook is letting companies and individuals buy the right to republish those actions to your friends in ads -- including your name and profile photo -- on the social network's site.

facebook_marketing_solutions.png

Called "Sponsored Stories," these ads look like the other small ads that adorn the right side of the screen (which can already feature your name if you've Liked the product in question). In this case, as a video posted to Facebook's marketing page Tuesday explains, the ad will simply recycle your check-in or Like as an ad labeled "Sponsored Story."

In the video, Facebook developers explain how the format works and how it lets advertisers get around one disadvantage of people's check-ins and Likes showing up in the usual News Feed: "a lot of impressions do get lost because there's so much content coming through." One staffer also makes an important point that is already getting lost in debates about this: "A sponsored story never goes to somebody who's not one of your friends."

Mashable's story offers a few more details about how this will work. Ben Parr writes that advertisers will be able to bid on the chance to repurpose not just Likes and check-ins but also posts on public pages and "actions within custom applications."

But they won't be able to pluck particular bits of content and instead can only have a percentage of those actions reused as Sponsored Stories -- which could lead to these ads broadcasting critical comments left at a check-in. I can see people checking into a fast-food establishment and leaving remarks along the lines of "better than starving" or "will need angioplasty sooner than I thought."

We'll see -- I haven't seen any of these ads myself yet, and I've only heard from one reader who has.

(Disclosure, part 1: Post Co. Chairman Donald E. Graham sits on Facebook's board of directors. Since he's also on my Facebook friends list, it's possible that I will see a Sponsored Story ad featuring his name and profile picture at some point.)

(Disclosure, part 2: Since I myself use Facebook to market my work, I could buy Sponsored Stories ads to promote myself. I promise you that I will not do that.)

But one aspect of this ad program should be easy to predict: People won't like it. Facebook's poor presentation of it is bad enough -- the Palo Alto, Calif., company should have announced this on its blog, not in a video on a page many of its users don't know exists -- but its core mistake is not letting people opt out of Sponsored Stories.

It's a kind of bait and switch for the company to launch check-ins as a way to connect with friends on the go, then turn that action into an unavoidable advertising medium only five months later.

Facebook should let users tell advertisers "no thanks, you're getting enough publicity already from my check-ins appearing in the News Feed." Better yet, it should let them share in some of the proceeds if they decide to take part: If a coffee shop is going to profit from publicizing my endorsement, the least it can do is offer me a cup on the house in return.

By Rob Pegoraro  | January 27, 2011; 10:13 AM ET
Categories:  Social media  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Police: Five Anonymous hacking group members arrested in Britain
Next: Facebook denies they're building a phone as rumors resuface

Comments

Typical Facebook. In fact, I'm thinking of closing my account because of this. I know I'll never click another Like button - ever.

Posted by: leicaman | January 27, 2011 11:14 AM | Report abuse

Just another stumble by a company who appears to be determined to upset their users at every turn.

I know I am becoming a broken record here, but if Mark had paid attention to a proposal I submitted months ago, none of this would be happening. I wish there were a way to bring down the walls around him. The internet world would be a better and safer place for all of us.

Posted by: panamacanuck | January 27, 2011 11:51 AM | Report abuse

Just another stumble by a company who appears to be determined to upset their users at every turn.

I know I am becoming a broken record here, but if Mark had paid attention to a proposal I submitted months ago, none of this would be happening. I wish there were a way to bring down the walls around him. The internet world would be a better and safer place for all of us.

Posted by: panamacanuck | January 27, 2011 11:53 AM | Report abuse

Just another stumble by a company who appears to be determined to upset their users at every turn.

I know I am becoming a broken record here, but if Mark had paid attention to a proposal I submitted months ago, none of this would be happening. I wish there were a way to bring down the walls around him. The internet world would be a better and safer place for all of us.

Posted by: panamacanuck | January 27, 2011 11:54 AM | Report abuse

Just another stumble by a company who appears to be determined to upset their users at every turn.

I know I am becoming a broken record here, but if Mark had paid attention to a proposal I submitted months ago, none of this would be happening. I wish there were a way to bring down the walls around him. The internet world would be a better and safer place for all of us.

Posted by: panamacanuck | January 27, 2011 11:57 AM | Report abuse

I have a new definition of "contentment":
NOT having a Facebook account.

Posted by: oldgeezer1 | January 27, 2011 12:29 PM | Report abuse

My facebook friends' likes, check-ins and other updates may get lost among my friends' other likes, check-ins and updates so FB needs to let its business partners make some likes, check-ins and other updates be more prominent than others.

Thanks but no thanks.

Give me the courage to change the things I can...

Posted by: -bwg | January 27, 2011 12:38 PM | Report abuse

Yet another reason to avoid Facebook as if it were the plague. I've entered a contest or two on there so I guess I like there product regardless of whether or not I've actually tried it.

Posted by: Michael71061 | January 27, 2011 12:45 PM | Report abuse

Being a part of Facebook is akin to being slowly pecked to death by chickens.
It's not for the faint of heart, and not for anybody with a working brain in their head.

Posted by: realneil | January 27, 2011 1:59 PM | Report abuse

Everyone should understand by now, if they didn't before, that Facebook and other "social" media are all about "aggregating eyeballs" in order to sell advertising. You may find Facebook useful enough to justify the occasional hijacking of your information, but no one should be surprised when Facebook implements another revenue enhancement strategy that involves user information. It's just what they do.

Posted by: ikeaboy | January 27, 2011 2:47 PM | Report abuse

Everyone should understand by now that Facebook and other "social media" are all about "aggregating eyballs" to sell advertising. You may find Facebook useful enough to justify the highjacking of your information, but no one should be surprised when Facebook implements another revenue enhancement tool that incorporates user information. It's just what they do and, after all, you gave them the information.

Posted by: ikeaboy | January 27, 2011 2:51 PM | Report abuse

I can't believe people fall for all the Facebook cr*p, but they do in droves. I absolutely despise Facebook and its good to read I am not alone. For a long time I wondered if I was just a paranoid freak.

Posted by: Nogero | January 27, 2011 6:17 PM | Report abuse

FB ads are laughable. It took a year of clicking "Offensive" before they quit presenting Sarah Palin ads. I referred obliquely to Pittsburgh a couple of weeks ago. Now they think I live there, with five or more ads per day. How many times do I have to tell them I don't want to play their free games (deceptive: personal information collectors)? Or that my hip joints aren't inflamed? They also think that I live in Toledo. What up wit dat!? In two years I have seen one ad that I could consider appropriately targeted at me. It would be easy to blame idiot programmers, but I am a demographic outlier and I'm accustomed to targeted materials being way off the mark.

Posted by: Davoud | January 30, 2011 12:46 AM | Report abuse

It would only be fair to allow dislike, and require ALL check-in stories to be used as Ad's. Do you think they will use "This place sucked" in their Ad's.
Example I had a $9 burger the other night @ Apple...'s and it looked like it came out of a McDonald's wrapper if you know what I mean.
I would have loved to check-in there and send a picture.

Posted by: wsj2 | January 30, 2011 10:29 AM | Report abuse

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