Facebook announced on Wednesday that it is bringing more advertisements to more places -- and, for the first time, to smartphones -- as part of its push to appeal to Wall Street and advertisers in advance of its mega-IPO.
The social networking goliath introduced an expanded plan to reshape both the content and placement of advertisements on its website during its Facebook Marketing Conference in New York City. The company's executives stressed that Facebook advertisements will appear in four locations: In the timeline of a company or brand's Facebook page; on the righthand column of the user's homepage; in the user's News Feed itself (both on mobile devices and on the web); and on the Facebook log-out page.
The bigger change to Facebook advertisements, however, may be in the way that they appear to and interact with users. In addition to the new places you'll find ads, Facebook is pushing marketers to make the ads appear less like explicit advertisements and more like regular updates or Facebook posts. This way, of course, the advertisement can blend in more seamlessly with the updates on the rest of the user's News Feed.
The best strategy for advertisers and for Facebook, according to Facebook execs speaking at the marketing event, is to make content seem less like "ads" and more like "stories." In other words, expect ads to appear in the form of photos, or status updates: Advertisements in the guise of everyday Facebook activity.
Now, who sees these new, camouflaged Facebook advertisements comes with a couple of constraints -- a sort of quality control, if you will. Advertisers cannot simply spam out their messages across the entire social network. In order for a Facebook advertisement to show up on your News Feed or elsewhere, either a friend has to interact with a brand's Facebook page (by Liking that page or posting something on that brand's page), or you yourself must be a fan of a brand's Facebook page. If you are a fan of a brand on Facebook, that brand will now be able to post sponsored content (or, an advertisement) next to your News Feed.
Facebook's other big advertising announcement of the day is that ads will now start appearing on the News Feed of its mobile applications. The company had indicated in its IPO filing that adding advertisements to its smartphone and tablet applications would be key to generating revenue in the future -- it is already seeing a shift to mobile in the way that its users visit its site -- and it appears that Mark Zuckerberg's company will move forward with adding those ads to the mobile News Feed starting soon.