By Erin Russell
A girl hardly can scroll through Facebook anymore without news about friends’ cats, daily trials and innermost thoughts being interrupted by sponsored advertisements.
While Facebook has had professional profiles and “Like” pages for some time, these profiles can now pay to use Facebook’s sponsored stories feature and have their updates highlighted more prominently than non-paying users. This means sponsored stories are more likely to appear in others’ feeds, and likely to appear higher than they would based on chronology alone.
This is why companies are suddenly making posts designed to get more interaction between other users. For example, a makeup company might post an update that says “Like this status if you believe every woman has the right to feel beautiful,” next to a photo of a model wearing their products. Alternatively, a professional profile might pose a question to its followers looking for interaction so their “sponsored story” (read: paid advertising) will show up on their followers’ friends’ feeds.
This method of advertising has been so effective because we, small-time personal Facebook users, are doing all the legwork. We’ve built a group of friends who care about what we have to say, which these companies are now tapping into as a consumer market. For each person who presses “Like” on a sponsored story, that story will be seen by many of their friends — so advertising exposure can grow exponentially.
Did we create our Facebook profiles so we could interact with corporate entities? I can imagine for most of us, the answer is no. We created Facebook to stay in touch with friends we rarely see, to share our own thoughts, and participate in one of the major ways our culture socializes.
It’s unlikely that Facebook’s administrators are going to decide they really don’t want to make all that money any more and call the whole thing off. So if users don’t want ads on Facebook, it’s up to us to do something about it.
The solution is simple: stop interacting with corporate accounts. Realize that pressing “Like” on the hypothetical makeup ad mentioned earlier does nothing to make every woman feel beautiful. Ask yourself before commenting on a sponsored status what value it will bring to your life, and whether you want to bring this advertisement to all your friends as well without being compensated for your time.
This is not to say that small, local businesses don’t have a place on Facebook, with followers who are interested in seeing their updates. However, these small, local businesses often cannot afford to pay for sponsored story status.
Note: Readers can choose to view all updates from pages they “Like” by clicking on the small gear icon in the top right corner of the page and choosing “Add to interest lists.”
Like many systems we take as immutable, Facebook’s sponsored story system gives a great deal of power to the people. It’s up to us to use that power by not participating in interactions that don’t bring meaning to our lives or enrich our experiences.
So let’s get back to what made Facebook great: pictures of cats.