The extension to the format, which integrates your friends’ names, images and activity – such as when they have “liked” a brand’s Facebook page – into ads is understood to start appearing in users’ news feeds early next year.
It aims to give brands more opportunities to be visible in the areas of the site that Facebook users visit most often, rather than just their official Pages, which only tend to be looked at regularly by the most dedicated of fans.
The change brings Facebook’s Sponsored Story ad format more in line with that of rival social network Twitter, which offers brands sponsored tweets and sponsored accounts that appear on users’ timelines.
Facebook first introduced the Sponsored Story ad format in January, which appeared as small images and text on the right-hand side of the page. It has since extended into the rolling ticker feed of activity that appears on the top right-hand side of the page.
The use of the format has come under criticism by some users who feel their activity on the social network should not be used by brands for their own commercial gain to imply those people are endorsing their products and services. Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg has previously said that endorsements from friends are “two to three times” more valuable than generic ads sold on Facebook.
One group of Facebook users in the US is even suing Facebook for its use of the format in a San Francisco court.
The case is the first of its kind and, if it succeeds, could have major implications on the way Facebook makes revenue from brand advertising.