Your friends’ latest photos, status updates and shared links on Facebook will soon include their interactions with advertisers. Such “sponsored stories” will “gradually” appear in users’ news feeds — the stream of their friends’ recent Facebook activity that appears on their homepage—starting “early next year,” the social networking site confirmed in an email to CBC News, which noted the rollout will include Canada. Initially, no more than one sponsored story will appear in each user’s news feed per day.
Facebook said the sponsored stories will be clearly labeled with the word “sponsored.” Users who mouse over the word see the message “This was already shared with you. A sponsor paid to feature it here.”
“With this announcement, Facebook is just making it easier for people, businesses, and organizations to feature these posts,” the company said in a statement.
Sponsored stories appear when users’ friends interact with the Facebook page of a business — for example, if they “like” the page or a post on the page.
Users that follow the page of a particular business already receive updates from that business in their news feed and can interact with the company’s postings as they do with items their friends post. However, at the moment, those interactions are usually invisible to their friends.
Advertisers can already pay to feature customers’ interactions with individual postings — such as a deal or promotion that users can “like” — as “sponsored stories.” That allows them to appear on the pages of friends of their followers, including those who do not follow their brand.
Of course, regular ads on Facebook appear regardless of whether a user’s friends have interacted with the brand or not. Right now, sponsored stories appear on the right-hand side of the page, where regular ads appear. In 2012, not all interactions between their friends and the business will show up in their news feed–only those that the advertiser has paid to feature.
Users can’t opt out of seeing the sponsored stories. However, they can stop themselves and their friends from seeing the sponsored stories of a particular business they follow by adjusting their privacy settings.