Brand-name deals to mix with Facebook friend posts

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Companies can continue to set up Facebook pages on their brands for free. They’d pay to insert updates into news feeds and elsewhere based on the number of fans they have. In other words, posting the message will remain free, but getting more people to see it will cost money.

Facebook will collect feedback and test how users respond as it rolls out the changes gradually. At first, users may see just one message a day from a brand inside their news feed, or even less. And they won’t see messages from random companies they are not connected to in some way _ directly or through a friend.

Facebook has certainly backed down on things,” Lieb said. “But they are not just going on what people say. They are going on what they do.”

Beyond the updates within news feeds, Facebook will also start showing ads when people log out of the site.

According to research firm eMarketer, Facebook had a 14 percent share of the $12.4 billion display advertising market in the U.S. last year. Even before Wednesday’s announcement, eMarketer had estimated the share would grow to 16.8 percent this year, surpassing Google’s 16.5 percent.

Yet Google had more than 11 times Facebook’s ad revenue of $3.2 billion last year. Google relies on text-based ads that aren’t as lucrative as display ads, but the search leader makes up for that in volume.

The numbers suggest that even as Facebook increasingly competes with Google for ad dollars, it hasn’t yet fully taken full advantage of its potential.

Facebook also introduced Timeline for brands Wednesday. The company, which is based in Menlo Park, Calif., has been nudging its users to switch over to this new profile format, which emphasizes photos and reveals more prominently posts and updates from a user’s entire Facebook history.

Now, brands can create their own Timelines, too. Walmart’s Timeline was already available, beginning with the opening of its first store in 1962.

Ford Motor Co. said the new approach lets it highlight more of its 109-year history.

“We’ve always used photos and videos and a lot of different aspects of our history” on Facebook pages, Ford social media head Scott Monty said. “But the way Timeline is laid out, people can see at a glance historic things that have happened.”

He also dismissed the idea that people might not want ads in their news feed or on their mobile devices.

Facebook has done a really good job knowing how users think and what expectations are,” he said. “It won’t be interruptive, it will seem natural.”

AP Retail Writer Mae Anderson contributed to this report.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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