Out of pure curiosity (and terminal frustration at the noise thrown at us on social media by the platforms themselves) I wondered what would happen if I just hid/blocked every ad I saw.
The results were great and probably great for businesses too.
For disclosure, I ran a business for several years starting back in 2011 using Facebook as an engagement platform and saw over time the erosion of the value Facebook provided, ultimately seeing it replaced by value extraction from my business in the form of ad buys to reach audiences that had opted-in and enjoyed engaging with our brands and pages.
Social Media: The Noise and Toll Business
Social media platforms are in the business of making connections between people and people, people and brands/businesses, and then creating noise barriers with their algorithms to separate them, thus compelling businesses and brands to pay for ads (pay a toll) to break through the noise.
Facebook in a Browser and The Facebook App
I started blocking sponsored posts in my feed and on the sidebar, citing that they were not relevant to me versus reporting them as spam or in some other way inappropriate.
In the browser the ads vanished!
They were replaced with suggested groups and pages and people. So far, 2 hours in looks like a win.
Update: Three days in, all still holding strong.
Apparently, Facebook’s algorithm interprets mass ad hiding/blocking as someone who is fed up and not seeing things of interest and Facebook says “let’s put these ad on hold for a bit, we’re losing this one.”
I then went to the app and did the same in the feed, hid a couple of sponsored posts and presto, ads gone.
Two pictures by friends…ad…two more pictures by friends…ad.
I did the same thing on Instagram to the ads and hid them as not relevant. Again, presto! Ads stopped showing in my feed.
Instagram will even thank you for hiding them. You’re welcome Instagram. It was my pleasure.
I did see a rogue ad for Tropicana about an hour later, hid it, then they were gone again. (Citrus a mortal enemy of my stomach).
Update: Two and three days in and the ads have returned but don’t hold their preferential 3rd spot; they appear less frequently (I think) and I have to scroll through quite a few posts to see one.
How long these behaviors by Facebook and Instagram will persist is yet to be seen but regardless hiding ads, particularly citing irrelevance, is a good thing for businesses, especially the businesses you actually want to connect with.
Aggressive Blocking is Just Curation and a Win for All
You should block/hide ads for these three reasons:
1) When you hide or block an ad you are reducing the noise (paid-for noise) thrown in to your feeds.
2) You are sending a signal back to that advertiser that you are not interested and their ad is not relevant. THIS is a good thing for the advertiser because it is decreasing their target audience size and reduces how much they need to spend to reach people who are actually interested in their brand/product/service.
3) It increases the likelihood that brands and businesses you genuinely care about may show up organically (i.e. without have to pay) in you feed. This is an especially big win for small and local businesses that you have “liked”/”followed” and want to support and engagement with.
Take Instagram for example, there are quite a few local businesses I follow and like seeing posts from and engaging with. Every ad for Smirnoff or Hyatt Hotels or The New York Times I have to scroll past is squandered attention and subtle digital fatigue.
This isn’t good for me, isn’t good for the local businesses I want to support, and not good for advertiser X (except for the plug they get in this rant).
I don’t drink vodka (hide, win for Smirnoff). I’m not going on any trips and am not brand loyal to a hotel chain (hide, win for Hyatt). I already read The New York Times (hide, win for The Times, they can stop spending money trying to reach me).
So Hide and Block—Relentlessly
Own your feed and curate it with vigor. Don’t be passive when it comes to ads.
If a local business you like or follow wants to push advertising to you, your aggressive ad and feed curation ultimately gives them more bang for their buck.
A curated feed means there is a better chance they don’t have to compete against irrelevant noise and can spend less to share something you will probably love.