Are Facebook Ads Getting Too Invasive?

Generally, we seem to have accepted Facebook’s transgressions as a whole. Sure, its often questionable stances on individual privacy and user information have infrequently stirred the pot but, for the most part, we have accepted Facebook for what it is — a massive social network that grants us the ability to easily connect with our close friends. Oh, and it’s free.

Facebook has always been this huge company with undoubtedly questionable ethics and privacy concerns, but those things were rarely ever a huge problem. Certainly, they were a problem, but never anything too alarming because they rarely ever impacted our day-to-day usage of Facebook.

Then, Facebook ads were introduced, and the normally clutter-free pages that we had once been accustomed to started becoming far more cluttered with annoying ads suggesting we check out specific pages. Eventually, those casual forays into advertising turned into deep relationships between Facebook users and brands through ‘liking’.

Invading Your Space

But an underlying concern, from users to Facebook, has always been whether or not Facebook’s advertising has been too invasive. And, up until now, that could have easily been answered as no. Or, maybe slightly annoying, but never too creepy.

Then suggested friends changed that. Judging by your connections, Facebook would make recommendations for who you might know and (possibly) should friend on Facebook. Was it convenient? Absolutely. But it was also a little unsettling too.

And now, Facebook is planning on taking that creepiness a step further. With the introduction of Suggested Events, Facebook is slated, more than ever, to hugely invade what you thought was just your own personal space. ¬†Essentially, through Facebook’s new suggested events feature, Facebook attempts to predict where you might want to go by looking at your interests and previous events that you attended.¬†

Certainly, there’s the obvious concern that this feature is way (way, way) too creepy. How does Facebook know where I want to be in the coming weeks? And worse, what if it’s right?

Advertising In Your News Feed

And with the company’s ongoing pressure to make more and more money, it isn’t content with maintaining its current system of ads and leaving it at that. Now, Facebook has plans to begin allowing advertising in our news feeds. Akin to going from simply having product placements to full-blown commercials, the move to advertising in user’s news feeds will certainly be off-putting to many Facebook users.

And this isn’t the first time Facebook has experimented with such a feature. Back in 2006, Facebook first began advertising in the news feed, only to discontinue it shortly thereafter due to user complaints.

But this time aims to be much different for Facebook. After all, they have learned a lot since their early, failed efforts in advertising. And now, they plan on making it all better, and completely different by introducing ads as Sponsored Stories. What that means is that users will begin seeing ads featuring their own friends that have liked another company or brand’s Facebook page, and the ads will then prompt them to do so as well.

And yet, Facebook’s continued efforts to increase revenue, and justify the advertising that often surrounds those efforts, appear to be becoming increasingly more and more invasive. With Facebook’s next target intended to be your timeline, it appears that Facebook isn’t overtly concerned with how users react to the changes. Will they be upset? Undoubtedly, but as long as too many don’t abandon ship, it’s not a huge cause for concern for Facebook.

And that has always the underlying question that Facebook must face: Will these changes be too invasive for users’ news feeds, and too disruptive to the natural Facebook experience?

Of course, only time will truly tell. Still, advertising has become an inherent part of the Facebook experience that we have begrudgingly become used to and learned to cope with. After all, it is essentially free.

But when will it be enough? When will users stop being ‘okay’ with Facebook’s advertisements, and instead start abandoning the service for ones that monetize through much less invasive means.

That is certainly the most important question. Right now, they are perfectly content with pushing the envelope, in par because users don’t really have another social network to turn to, but also because, heading towards their IPO, they want to grow as much as physically possible. But if Google+ and Twitter eventually become better alternatives, what then for Facebook? What if Facebook’s efforts to grow its revenue become far too off-putting for users?

Then, they can start worrying.