Can you remember way back when Google introduced adverts into their search results? It was good for the customer and for the advertiser. If you were a flower shop in Bath then only customers searching for flowers in Bath would even see your ad, and it would only cost you if they saw your ad and clicked on it.
Social networks have applied a lot of the same principles, but of course you don’t have to search for something to see adverts. Facebook serves ads on the right side of the page based on where you are and what you like.
More recently, ads have been starting to infiltrate the timeline where you traditionally kept up to date with the activities of your friends, and new research from Nielsen in their State of Social Media 2012 report shows that users are now finding these ads more annoying than any other online advertising.
This is an interesting change in sentiment. I don’t think I have ever heard anyone complain about Google advertising, because you are not ‘advertised to’ until you want something – and then the ads are related to what you are looking for.
But now your personal timeline can be stuffed full of brands advertising items that may not be of interest at all. Just because your best friend likes Nike trainers doesn’t mean that you like them, but if she likes their page then it will probably pop up in your timeline.
The big difference is that the social media systems are advertising to you without knowing whether you want the product, there is more intelligence than just print advertising, but not a lot more. I don’t see a Nike shoes ad because I’m looking to buy some running shoes, I will see it just because my friend is interested in that brand.
This is going to become an issue for the social networks in 2013 and they need the advertising revenue, so they need to get the problem sorted so ads are useful for the user and advertiser – just like they used to be.
Photo by Paul Townsend licensed under Creative Commons