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In late May of this year, Facebook found itself at a crossroads with advertisers and its users.  Feminist groups lobbied against Facebook for allowing pages that glorified violence against women.  These groups also targeted the advertisers whose ads were featured near the pages.  Nissan and several other companies temporarily removed their ads from Facebook until the problem was resolved.  Facebook has since acknowledged that its systems to remove such content need improvement.

This episode showcases a unique challenge for social media sites that want to protect freedom of speech but also do not want to alienate advertisers.  Nissan has promised to work with Facebook on a resolution.  Dove, another ad targeted by protest groups, is working with Facebook to have pages Social mediapromoting violence to women removed.  Dove is also working on refining its targeting terms for future pages it creates.

However, it is still unclear how advertisers will be able to prevent their brands from appearing on Facebook pages with offensive content.  Traditional media offers advertisers more predictable ad positions, whereas digital ads are usually placed using advanced algorithms set with certain parameters.

Revenue from social media advertising is expected to reach $6.43 billion in 2014, with over half of that coming from Facebook advertising alone.

Social media sites are finding that they have to develop unique ways to satisfy advertisers’ needs.  For example, Twitter offers advertisers negative matching services, which means companies can choose to adjust their campaigns to avoid specific phrases or hash tag trends.  LinkedIn clarified its terms to explicitly ban the selling of escort services.

Discussion Questions:

1. What problems can arise when advertising appears on social media sites?

2. What are the major social media sites doing to help advertisers with this problem?  Is it enough?


SOURCE: Tanzina Vega and Leslie Kaufman, New York Times, June 3, 2013