Worries Grow That Facebook Is Overdoing It With Ads

How many sponsored posts are too many?

Facebook has fully embraced its marketing side. Now the ad world is wondering how many sponsored posts are too many for a social network.

All Web companies strive for an appropriate balance of advertising and content. In Facebook’s case, the mix is closely watched because of its users’ early aversion to marketing.

However, Facebook is now as much a marketing machine as it is a social destination. “There used to be some reservation about too many ads, and now there are none,” said an ad exchange exec, who added that users could start to tune out ads, rendering them less effective.

A number of ad industry executives expressed similar sentiments—that Facebook may be nearing an ad threshold, threatening engagement—but declined to go on the record for fear of ruffling Facebook’s feathers. The overload could push marketers to less crowded social frontiers like Pinterest and Tumblr (which could soon face their own ad load dilemmas).

Facebook declined to comment. But the company has said it tracks users’ attitudes towards ads. CEO Mark Zuckerberg said publicly that the company hasn’t ever measured a “meaningful drop in satisfaction.” Still, Facebook this quarter capped sponsored posts to 1 in 20 on average.

Last quarter, ad revenue was up 66 percent year over year, and to satisfy Wall Street, it needs to continue growing. However, ad overload is seen as one factor driving teens away from Facebook. They’re interested in what friends are sharing,” an agency exec said. “They’re not interested in what brands are sharing.”