Social media giant Facebook is currently experimenting with a new feature that could potentially have major implications for marketers using its advertising platform. The company is now allowing a small number of beta test users to control the ads they interact with on the site. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the experiment is an opt-out element that lets the user cut off the flow of advertisements coming their way. Let’s take a closer look at this new feature and how it compares to opting out with email marketing.

Now or Forever

Facebook isn’t revealing much, but from what is known, the new experimental feature gives users the ability to hide sponsored content from a particular marketer by hovering their mouse over the “x” located in the upper right corner of an advertisement. It is believed that using this option prevents future ads from being displayed to the user. What is not clear at this point is whether or not using it opts the user out of the existing campaign, or all subsequent ads created by the marketer. If it is the latter, then it would be very similar to email marketing where unsubscribing means the user is cutting ties for good.

The Issue of Spam Content

Spam is still a problem in the email channel. Even spam filters, blacklists and all the combative efforts have not been enough to stop it from invading the user’s inbox. Spam isn’t necessarily an issue with Facebook Ads, but introducing an opt-out feature could be the social network’s way of making sure it never does. There is belief that user adoption of this function would consequently prompt marketers to improve their ad copy to be less spammy and more targeted and personal. If all this happens as some are suggesting, it could also help improve the click-through rates and responses on Facebook Ads.

Long Time Coming

Although the opt-out process is now a regular fixture in email marketing, this was not always the case. In fact, providing a way for recipients to unsubscribe from commercial mailings did not become a requirement until the CAN-SPAM Act was passed in 2003. By then, spam was officially out of control and wreaking havoc on the email marketing industry. Facebook originally rolled out its advertising platform in 2007 and until now has given users little to no power in regard to how they interact with brand offers. In both cases, one could say the introduction of opt-out features was long overdue.

There is no official word on when the Facebook Ad opt-out feature will be rolled out to the entire user base, just like there is no guarantee that people will actually use it when it does finally make an entrance. If one thing is for certain, it’s that having people opt out of your social ads or email marketing communications means there is some fine tuning that needs to be done on your part.