Facebook is messing with your News Feed -- again

Don't recognize items in your News Feed? That's because Facebook put them there.

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Like an obsessive compulsive who is always alphabetizing the food in his pantry, Facebook is messing with the items that appear in your News Feed again. Unlike Mr. OCD, though, it’s doing this to maximize its revenues.

As promised last month, Facebook is starting to place advertisements directly within peoples’ News Feeds. Only only instead of calling them “social ads” or “sponsored stories,” they’re labeled simply as “Featured.”

Facebook Featured AdsFacebook Featured Ads

Screen courtesy of Inside Facebook (thanks guys).

A Facebook spokesbot explained why to ZDnet’s Emil Protalinski:

“We are using the term ‘featured’ because we want to make it clear to people that they’re seeing content from a Page or person they have chosen to connect to. 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.”

Translation: Facebook will only show you these ads if you or some friend of yours clicked “Like” on that product or manufacturer’s page, and then only if they’re paying Facebook for the privilege of showing it to you. Facebook also initially promised to deliver only one “featured” item per day, then upped the ante to multiple ads per day “if you visit your News Feed a lot.”

That make you feel any better? I didn’t think so.

But that’s not the only way Facebook is tweaking your News Feed to its advantage. The other trick is via “highlighted stories.” These are stories that float to the top of your feed, marked by a pale blue triangle in the upper left corner. Per Facebook’s support pages,

We determine whether something is a highlighted story based on lots of factors, including your relationship to the person who posted the story, how many comments and likes it got, what type of story it is, etc. For example, a friend’s status update that might not normally be a highlighted story may be highlighted after many other friends comment on it.

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