Overnight, Facebook and Twitter have made it possible for any user to view all of the ads run by a page, and are also rolling out tools to differentiate political ads from normal ones.
The changes are designed to increase transparency before the midterm elections, but they also cause big problems for small businesses that rely on social media for advertising.
How the sausage gets made
During the 2016 US presidential election, fraudulent Russian accounts served false ads to 10m Facebook users and at least 1.7m Twitter users, causing widespread anger about a lack of transparency.
So in nearly simultaneous announcements yesterday, both platforms rolled out new transparency solutions to prevent political manipulation.
Facebook added an “Info and Ads” section to show all current ads run by any company, and Twitter rolled out an “Ads Transparency Center” that shows all ads purchased across the platform.
But the changes impact more than just Russian bots
For most small (and many large) brands, Facebook advertising is important — and requires trial and error to create a successful ad.
But now that all ads are visible to anyone, brands can copy each other’s best ads easily, which eliminates the competitive advantage for brands that worked hard to develop quality ads — and makes FB advertising a lot more like the real world (and the real world is hard).
Since there’s so much data available about Facebook ad performance, the changes could lead to even more similarity between ads once marketers discover — and shamelessly rip off — the “best” ads.
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