For the past few years, Facebook has been targeting adverts based on users’ activity on its site – if they like a page or share a post on a certain topic. And it’s been working. The social media network earned £3.68bn in total revenue in Q1 2016, much of which came from mobile ads.
Part of this success has stemmed from Facebook striving to ensure the relevance of adverts. Two years ago, the social network introduced Facebook Audience Network to help publishers and developers support their services by showing supposedly relevant, high quality ads to people who visit their websites and apps.
But only Facebook users logged on to the social network would see Facebook advertising on third party websites or mobile apps. Now, Facebook has unveiled plans to give marketers the opportunity to reach even more people online – even non-Facebook users.
Andrew Bosworth, VP, ads and business platform at Facebook, says the company is now expanding Audience Network so publishers and developers can show better ads to everyone, including those who don’t use, or aren’t connected to, Facebook.
Bosworth adds: “We’ve all had this experience. You open a news article on your phone’s web browser and the page takes unusually long to load. Once it appears, the article is blocked by an ad.
“You might see a tiny ‘x’ to hide the ad, but if you tap in the wrong spot, you get redirected to an app store or another website. It can be unclear who’s behind the ad or even if the website you’ve been directed to is safe to visit.”
Advertising may be here to stay, but bad advertising like this doesn’t have to, Bosworth notes. “That’s why we’re working to provide a better online advertising experience for everyone: people, publishers, and advertisers.”
When it comes to advertising, Facebook believes it offers a better user experience than the 100-plus companies that already serve Interest-based advertising on websites and apps. This, Bosworth says, is down to the company caring about the integrity of Facebook ads.
“Ads are reviewed against our standards and to ensure they are as respectful of people’s experience as possible,” Bosworth said in a blog post last week. “For example, we don’t permit ads that include sound unless you interact with them and we prohibit deceptive ads and ads for unsafe products and services. We’ve developed technology to determine when someone clicks on an ad on a mobile device by accident, so you don’t get taken to a website or app you didn’t mean to visit.”
Facebook also offers everyone controls over the ads they see, including tools to opt out of online interest-based advertising. Anyone who has a Facebook account can do this directly in their Facebook settings. “We honour your choice wherever you use Facebook,” adds Bosworth.
So will the latest changes to Facebook Audience Network really help marketers? Ezra Gottheil, social networking analyst at Technology Business Research, thinks so.
He says: “Digital advertising is a very big deal. This is actually good for advertisers, too. They don’t want to show ads to people who don’t want to see them. It detracts from the content site experience.”
But not all industry analysts are confident the changes will have much impact on advertising and marketing – or if Facebook will even benefit financially.
Brian Wieser, advertising, media and Internet analyst at Pivotal Research, said: “My guess is that the majority of people who aren’t on Facebook are probably light Internet users, and you have a small share of the population who is accounting for an even smaller share of consumption. It’s pretty marginal, I think, in terms of benefit.”