Facebook is testing a new approach to advertising that could see Facebook Groups targeted with relevant ads in the near future. If the move goes ahead, it would mark a drastic change in how the network delivers ads to users – perhaps the biggest shakeup since it first brought advertising to the News Feed.

However, if Facebook can pull it off, it would create an entirely new stream of revenue for the tech giant. And, more importantly for the rest of us, a powerful new way to target users with relevant ads.


Facebook testing ads in groups

Facebook is keeping fairly quiet as it tests out the prospect of ads in groups. It was actually TechCrunch that brought this to our attention and they only offered up a slither of a statement from Facebook on the matter:


“We have started to test delivering ads to people in Facebook Groups, and will be evaluating the response before determining how we will move forward.” – Facebook, quoted in TechCrunch


So the tests are underway – that much is confirmed. So ads really could be making their way to Facebook Groups in the near future.


Why should we care if Facebook advertises in groups?

On the one hand, we’ve wanted to target users in Facebook Groups for years and we’d love to see this made possible.

Sure, Facebook’s targeting options are great – the best on offer from any of the major platforms – but you need these to pinpoint users with buying intent. The News Feed isn’t like Google Search, where people go to find products and services; it’s supposed to be a private space and this takes a very subtle approach to advertising.

Facebook Groups, on the other hand, are completely different. These are public spaces where people share common interests – somewhere you can target multiple users based on the needs of that community. So the buying intent is already there and being able to tap into this would completely change how we approach Facebook advertising.

So we’re excited about the prospect, but a little cautious at the same time.


Group ads a risky move

As much as we’d love to get our hands on Facebook Group ads, it would be a risky move from the network. You have to think a lot of users will resent one of their favourite features suddenly being targeted with ads. Facebook Groups have always been a safe haven for users to browse content that relevant to their interests, without seeing ads or what their “friends” had for lunch.

This would change all that.


Not everyone is so worried, though. Some Facebook Group users can see the benefit of having relevant ads in groups they already belong to.


Which brings us to the key point: how Facebook ensures these ads are relevant and non-intrusive to the Facebook Group experience. So far, it’s done this with mixed results on the News Feed, but that was always going to be a difficult task. As we say, there’s far more potential for commercial buying intent in groups and this gives us genuine hope Facebook could make this work.

However, it’s not only the members of each group the network needs to think about, but also the admins who run them. These are the people who have to moderate posts and remove anything that’s inappropriate – including anything that could be considered an ad from businesses. How will they feel if ads are suddenly allowed to pour into their groups?

There’s also the question of which groups would be open to advertisements: public, private, secret or all of them. This could largely determine how much resistance there is from users and administrators to ads in their group.


Of course, all of this is pure speculation. All we really know is Facebook needs to find more revenue sources and its testing ads in Facebook Groups as one option. There will always be resistance to ads from a chunk of users, no matter how Facebook or anyone else implements them. So we have a feeling it’s not so much a question of if, but when and how Facebook brings ads to groups.