By Jennifer LeClaire / CIO Today. Updated December 17, 2013.
In a move that's likely to anger some and annoy others, Facebook is planning a new advertising product that it hopes will drive more views, likes, shares and comments for the people who pay its bills. In fact, the social media company said tests of "autoplay" videos have pushed a 10 percent-plus increase in all those sectors.
Of course, that boost wasn't on advertising-related videos. It was on other forms of video that users post to Facebook. Nonetheless, the company is now testing a similar video viewing format for advertisers that it hopes will produce similar, if not better, results.
"Marketers will be able to use this new format to tell their stories to a large number of people on Facebook in a short amount of time -- with high-quality sight, sound and motion," Facebook said in a blog post. "This approach will continue to improve the quality of ads that you see in News Feed."
How Annoying Is It?
Facebook offered a heads-up: Some people will see video ads for the new film Divergent begin playing as soon as they scroll into view in News Feed on mobile and desktop.
Here's how Facebook says it will work: Instead of having to click or tap to play, videos will start playing as soon as they appear on your screen -- without sound. This is similar to how videos behave when shared by friends or verified Pages. If you don't want to watch the video, the social media giant said, you can simply scroll or swipe past it.
If the video is clicked or tapped and played in full screen, the sound for that video will play as well. At the end of the video a carousel of two additional videos will appear, Facebook said, so you can continue viewing advertising content from the same brands.
On mobile devices, all videos that begin playing as they appear on the screen will have been downloaded in advance when the device was connected to Wi-Fi. That means the content will not consume data plans, even if you're not connected to Wi-Fi at the time of playback.
Facebook's Silent Compromise
We asked Greg Sterling, principal analyst at Sterling Market Intelligence, for his take on the new advertising scheme. He speculated that, if polled, most users would not want autoplay video in their news feed. However, he added, this is probably a good and inevitable move for Facebook advertising and for brands.
"The way Facebook has 'compromised' is by not having sound play automatically, when the video starts. If users want sound they'll have to click and engage with the video," Sterling said.
"This also lets advertisers and Facebook know how many users actually watched the video -- although others may be impacted or influenced without sound. Had Facebook launched with sound on we'd definitely see a major backlash from users. As it is there will be at least some criticism of the move from Facebook users."