Concerned that their web site does not have enough advertisements on it, Facebook today rolled out a new way for advertisements to show up. Now when you use the search bar at the top of your Facebook page, sponsored advertising results will display just below the search bar, changing with each letter you type.
Does this announcement of more Facebook advertising intentionally coincide with their stock trading at an all-time low? It might.
These new Facebook advertisements are called "typeahead ads," and they work similarly to the autocomplete function that you see when when typing a search into Google. On Google, the function anticipates what you might be typing and displays similar common searches beginning with those same letters. On Facebook, the typeahead ads will display brand names who've paid for preferential placement in search result displays.
TechCrunch reports that the first big Facebook search result ad buys are from Zynga and Match.com, and you can already see these ads pop up. Let's say you type a search into Facebook for the dating site OKCupid. By the time you type as far as "OKCu" you see typeahead displays for both OKCupid and Match.com. Since Match.com is the paying advertiser here, their typeahead result displays above OKCupid's -- even though you were searching on OKCupid.
In Facebook's defense, there is a tiny X in the top of the sponsored result allowing you to hide the ad, and it is discreetly labeled as sponsored.
While it's an aggressive move by Facebook to scrounge more advertising dollars, it brings up the inevitable question with all Facebook ads -- will anyone actually buy anything because of these? The theoretical goal here is for brands to steal each others' business -- e.g., Match.com trying to pry away those interested in OKCupid.
The problem with this model is that users are already searching for something specific. I'm not sure how likely I am to be swayed by a typeahead advertisement that shows a competitor displaying ahead of the company on whom I'm searching.
Then again, these new Facebook advertisements are fortunately not very invasive. They only show up briefly under the search bar, and they don't really make Facebook searching any more difficult. And they're in much better taste than the "Meet Mature Horny Librarians" sponsored ads that already display on the right-hand side of my Facebook page.