Ads blamed for drop in Facebook usage

By Chris Lee

Facebook users are abandoning the channel due largely to its advertising, according to a recent YouGov study. Usage dropped nine per cent, with only one in 20 Facebook users reporting that they have even clicked on an advert in the past year while active on the social network. This news comes despite mobile ad growth having contributed to Facebook’s second-best quarter since its initial public offering (IPO) last year.

Time to re-focus?

With less than one in ten social media users reporting that they feel so-called targeted ads were relevant to them, is it time for a rethink from the social networks themselves? Till Faida, co-founder of ad blocking software company Adblock Plus, believes that Facebook is “confusing shareholder value and profitability” with providing a good services to its users.

“It’s as though Facebook has forgotten that users want to connect with their friends, not advertisers,” he told NMK.Social media sites need to understand that they do not have a commercial relationship with their users, and people instead use Facebook as an essential tool to socialise with their friends.”

Faida believes that pushing products and services through advertising in this way is an intrusion that users object to and are clearly prepared to walk away from social media sites which push advertising too aggressively.

Facebook faces backlash

Faida believe there is currently a “disconnect” between advertisers and until large corporations realise that they need to ask users what they want, users will continue to take a stand, either disabling these social networking sites, or deploying ad blockers such as his.

Facebook’s latest ad platform, Facebook Exchange was launched in March and aimed to encourage more accurate targeting of relevant ads to users.

“When [Facebook Exchange] was launched in March [2013], we suggested that there would be a backlash and it’s clear to see that users did fight back against these intrusive moves,” Faida added.

It’s not just a problem for Facebook…

Recently, Twitter announced a new service which will allow brands to see which users have tweeted about shows they advertise with and target those users with advertisements. Faida believes that this move is also “extremely intrusive” and that Twitter runs the risk of putting people off tweeting about the adverts they see.

“This will have a totally negative effect – if users know they’re subsequently going to be bombarded with promotions from the company they tweet about, they will curb their opinions, defying the point of the social network,” he warned.

Networks need to build trust

Rather than viewing their power as a tool to take advantage of user trust, large social networks such as Facebook and Twitter should instead be using their influence to better understand the public and what they find acceptable or intrusive, Faida argues.

“In the long term, this would be more beneficial for all involved – it would enable users to express how they feel about marketing messages and tailor what they are exposed to, and it would enable advertisers to see more effective advertising as they could ensure that their messages are what the public want to see,” he concluded.

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