Facebook is testing a new format for the sponsored ads section of the site’s right sidebar. Users experiencing the test are shown two ads, and then a survey question asking “which of the two ads above would you prefer to see more of in the future?” Facebook may be using the collected to data to weight its ad targeting parameters, for instance showing a user more ads that target them based on location than their Likes and Interests or level of education.
So far, we’ve only received reports of these ads appearing to users in Israel. Advertisers don’t seem to have any choice of whether to show the surveys, nor receive their results.
Facebook has opened up several other new options to advertisers in the last few months, though. Sponsored Stories ads help Pages, apps, and Places convert user content that mentions them into ads. Facebook Ads for Applications and social context ads display which of a user’s friends have also installed or Liked an application or Page. Most recently, advertisers can select a specific landing tab of a Page as an ad’s destination.
When advertisers apply targeting parameters to an ad, it may appear to anyone who falls within those parameters. Unless advertisers run their campaigns for a long period of time with a high budget, or only target a small number of users, not everyone with the parameters will see the ad. Since advertisers usually choose to pay per click, it’s in Facebook’s interest to show the ads to those within the parameters that will be most likely to click.
Therefore, it’s important for Facebook to determine which targeting parameters make an ad the most relevant to users as a whole, as well as specific users. For instance, I live in San Francisco and have a college degree, but I may be more prefer to see ads that target me based on my location than on my education level.
These surveys could determine this, informing Facebook that users as whole may find location-targeted ads more relevant than education-targeted ads. Facebook could also know that in the future it should show me ads that target me based on location instead of those that target me based on the education when it has a choice.
This data could help advertisers receive more clicks for their ads, generating more revenue for Facebook.
[Thanks to Amit Lavi for the tip.]