Facebook Asks Users to Bare Souls Over Ad Hiding

Facebook on Thursday updated its ad policy with two changes. One gives users the option of explaining why they don’t want to see a specific ad in their News Feed when they click to hide the ad. The second update takes this new policy a step further by giving more weight to the feedback provided from users who rarely hide ads.

Users previously could opt to hide an ad they didn’t like by clicking on the top right menu, and that was the end of the process. That is still the procedure — but now they are presented with a window displaying questions about why they don’t want the ad.

Can We Talk?

Users can select their reasons: The ad isn’t relevant; the ad is offensive or inappropriate; the user keeps seeing the same ad; the ad is spam; or other.

Once a selection is made, new questions pop up to dig for more information. For example, if a user clicks on “I keep seeing this” as the reason for hiding the ad, the next pop-up screen asks exactly what they are seeing — ads from this advertiser, ads about this topic or this exact ad.

If the user clicks on “the ad is spam,” Facebook then asks why the user thinks it’s spam: It looks like spam; it’s for a fake page; it’s misleading or inaccurate; or none of the above.

Facebook’s goal is to identify ads that aren’t good fits for people and, in the bigger picture, identify ads that are offensive and remove them entirely.

“We’ve learned that the reason why someone hides an ad can be just as important as the hide itself,” product manager Max Eulenstein said. “If someone doesn’t want to see an ad because it’s not relevant to them, we know we didn’t do a great job choosing that ad and we need to improve. If someone doesn’t want to see an ad because it’s offensive, it probably isn’t a good ad for other people on Facebook, either.”

Short-Sighted Thinking

Advertisers might not be happy with this tweak to Facebook’s processes, but that could be an indication of short-sighted thinking.

Asking these questions can help both Facebook and the advertisers target ads more effectively — not only to those who respond, but also to Facebook users more generally, said Dawn Lerman, executive director of the Center for Positive Marketing at Fordham University.

“In asking this question, Facebook is looking to uncover consumer motivations for hiding ads,” she told the E-Commerce Times. “Knowing what motivates this behavior can help Facebook determine which kinds of ads will likely be viewed and how frequently ads should appear.”

As for Facebook users, at face value the two new changes would seem to be a win — but Facebook must be careful as it implements this strategy, said Rich Hanley, associate professor of journalism at Quinnipiac University.

Facebook is seeking user feedback from a group that ordinarily doesn’t provide it, and it must glean it without alienating users who see Facebook as an information appliance, not an application to sell them stuff, he told the E-Commerce Times.

The more information Facebook can gather, the better it can fine-tune the experience, Hanley said — but whether this additional information will helpful in the big picture remains to be seen.

Erika Morphy has been writing about technology, finance and business issues for more than 20 years. She lives in Silver Spring, Md.

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