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Content marketing won’t save us from ad blockers

‘Facebook friends feed’ – released via ProductHunt – is a browser extension designed to strip users’ Facebook timelines of all elements of discovery. After installing the extension users won’t see ads or any other posts unless they explicitly follow a brand or publisher.

Brands have been bemoaning the dwindling of their organic reach from their own pages for several years but will soon have to contend with content that can’t spread because users can opt to shut it out. ‘Facebook friends feed’ was originally only available on Chrome but has been updated for use on Safari “by request”.

The extension’s designer Juraj Ivan says “I’ve used to spent too much time on Facebook and was looking for a way to minimise it. I realised, that I visit Facebook too often because there is always something new, but mostly it’s stories from people and pages I don’t follow.”

Writing on The Next Web Kirsty Styles suggested that it won’t be long before Ivan receives a cease and desist from Mark Zuckerberg’s company as she points out that an app like this effectively “kills Facebook’s business model”. If, like Ivan claims, users of the extension feel less inclined to spend time with Facebook this is extremely detrimental for the company.

Should it stay live – and spread – 'ad' blockers such as ‘Facebook friends feed’ would stop publishers like BuzzFeed and The Lad Bible in their tracks. Content literally could not go viral on Facebook. It means that brands who take refuge from ad blockers and put their stock in producing more shareable content may have a significant problem on their hands.

Instead of blocking content entirely ‘Facebook friends feed’ also allows users to grey out the posts, keeping them visible but making them less likely to be clicked. Some commenters on the thread claim that about a third of the posts in their timelines are affected by this.

It’s worth trying the fade option to see how many posts in your own timeline wouldn’t be visible. The effects aren’t limited to sponsored posts but to any updates liked by friends where the original publisher isn’t one you follow. This means everything from articles via The Guardian to memes liked by friends.

Were this widespread already some of the most effective marketing campaigns of recent years – such as the Ice Bucket Challenge – couldn’t have happened. Even the battle for Christmas between John Lewis and Sainsbury’s would be fought with smaller social rations.

We’re fortunate that this fix at least is unlikely to stay live, but with commenters on Product Hunt already asking for similar apps for Twitter too, both the demand and capability are there. In fact ‘Facebook friends feed’ apparently took Ivan less than 24 hours “from idea to finished product on ProductHunt”.

Let’s hope that the big social networks start to take a more active interest in the ad blocking debate.

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