Why Free Facebook is the Best Facebook: Keep the Ads.

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In a recent statement Twitter co-founder, Biz Stone, suggested Facebook charge users a monthly fee for an ad-free social platform. Interesting thought; a premium Facebook or Twitter account. It resonates with Pandora One and the paid versions of Spotify or Slacker Radio. But would users really be willing to pay a fee every month to get rid of a few ads? We’re betting not.

> on September 24, 2012 in San Francisco, California.

“In general, the ads on Facebook don’t seem particularly useful or engaging. However, ads on the service are universally tolerated because that’s what makes Facebook free, and free is nice,” Stone said in a post on Medium.

He’s right about one thing: free is nice, so why pay? There are several reasons why the idea of premium accounts don’t hold water, let’s break this down.

Is it worth the money when you can have it for free? While abandoning the ads in your news feed may sound appealing, would it be worth tacking on another bill to your monthly statements? For most people, no. Even with Pandora One, users didn’t have a problem with the ad-ridden free version. In fact, One subscribers only started significantly increasing when Pandora put a limit to the hours users could listen on their mobile devices.

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In addition to that- Pandora recognized that their limit on mobile devices would affect a very small percentage of users: less than 4%. They even noted that the average listener only uses about 20 hours a month (half of the limit) listening across all devices. Thus, the majority of users will remain unaffected and be able to use the free version.

Facebook ads get clicked. Facebook allows marketers to target ads to specific people. In other words, people who want to see those ads. You know, a target market. With specific targeting and remarketing based on links users already click,  ads are being delivered to people who are actually interested in seeing them. You may never know of a super-awesome new dog toy for your coveted lump of fluff at home if it isn’t put in front of you.

Sponsored stories, a particularly successful form of Facebook advertising, has an average click-through-rate of 3.20%. Promoted page posts have a 2.03% click-through-rate. People are liking them enough to click. And that’s the story on that.

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Advertising has evolved, especially on Facebook, and it is only continuing to become more tailored for the user experience. Therefore not only are ads more relevant to users, but if you don’t want to click, you don’t have to. Advertisers and marketers are paying to keep your social media free, and relevant. Sounds like a win-win.

They’re not really in the way. Ads on television are annoying, yes, because they interrupt viewing. Ads on mobile gaming apps—also annoying; they take up valuable screen space. But ads on Facebook? Are the sidebar ads even noticeable unless you intentionally look? Aren’t the ones showing up in your news feed pretty relevant? Would people really pay to avoid a few Facebook ads?

Aside from the obvious irony of the Twitter co-founder giving Facebook advice, if this is something social platforms “should” be gearing towards, why isn’t Twitter offering a premium, ad-free experience? Maybe because no one would buy it. . .

What’s the real issue here? To say Facebook has “too many ads” is a little extreme, and not really true. In an article on Forbes, a more prominent issue is addressed, “other sites like Forbes’ home page also run a heck of a lot of very prominent ads–and even Google does on its search results pages–so Facebook is hardly out of control in comparison.”

The only thing that maybe could be said to Facebook, is that perhaps advertising could use some tweaking. Let’s see some more efforts to filter out the bad and useless ads, and expansion on the current targeting tactics, and more relevant posts. With those kinds of improvements- we’re betting ads wouldn’t be a problem for users anymore. Not to mention, this could be a marketer problem with not using targeting to their full advantage.

Ben Harper, digital marketing pro, states, “It’s time for us [marketers] to take responsibility as advertisers for our output and make sure as an industry that we step up and use the Facebook platform in a sensible and data-led way, to ensure that the value of the platform continues to be unlocked and isn’t damaged by untargeted, spammy ads.”

Robert van Hoesel writes on Medium, “Facebook has the most accurate information to create relevant ads, their FBX platform allows other advertising platforms to do really specific retargeting and by targeting connected fans ads can get really relevant.”

All-in-all, feedback is looking like Facebook ads aren’t too much of an issue. Let’s keep it free, people.

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Would you pay to use an ad-free Facebook? What implications do you forsee in premium social accounts?

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Sydney Banks

Sydney Banks is one of the Social Media Coordinators at Customer Magnetism. She spends her days in the office strategizing social media content, managing ad campaigns, and generating reports. Away from work, she stays busy entertaining an active Golden Retriever and being a wife and mom. She is only slightly obsessed with Minions and it’s not unusual to see minion paraphernalia close by at all times.