Facebook’s new “social advertising” feature misunderstood

facebooklog.jpgFacebook, the popular Palo Alto-based social networking site, can’t stay out of controversy. The latest one may blow over sooner than later.

Today, a Media Week article said Facebook would unveil a new ad feature that sounded pretty far out and gutsy, even for a company that is trying to run a business: A sponsored advertisement on a person’s profile updates (Facebook calls these updates a “news feed”) which, when a person clicked on it, “their entire network of friends would be automatically alerted and then given the chance to interact with that particular marketer’s group.”

Of course, we contacted Facebook. What about privacy, we asked? Will the ad be clearly marked so that I know all my friends will know if I have clicked on the ad?

Well, turns out not to be true. Melanie Deitch, spokeswoman at Facebook said Facebook was, as of this writing, trying to get the article clarified: “It’s not true, we’re trying to get it changed now,” she said. “No user click through is ever published to their friends. It is only if a user chooses to join a sponsored group that it would show up in the news feed.”

So what is a sponsored group? A sponsored group is when a company like Nike sponsors a channel on Facebook to engage in a dialogue with Facebook members. And you have to join the group, not merely click on an ad. So this is no where near as bad as it initially seemed.

Wonder if the masses have already stirred? If they have, they can rest for now.

From the original (wrong) Media Week article:

The new Sponsor Stories ad unit will initially be placed in the third position within each user’s News Feed – as either a small banner-like placements or video clip. When users elect to click on these ads, their entire network of friends will be automatically alerted and then given the chance to interact with that particular marketer’s group.

According to Mike Murphy, Facebook’s chief revenue officer, the new units are geared for advertisers that are looking to create customized offers for the Facebook community that go beyond standard banner messaging. “Up until now, most advertising on social network sites hasn’t leveraged social networking behavior,” he said. “This offers a viral opportunity that is unique for advertisers that is not disruptive.”