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Facebook autoplay ads cause surge in mobile data use

Facebook?s autoplay video ads are causing consumers? mobile data use to rise exponentially, fueling complaints from users.

Facebook?s settings are automatically set to enable video ads to begin playing as soon as a user scrolls past them on the application. This setting has prompted a slew of complaints to MoneySavingExpert.com from Facebook users claiming their monthly data allowances have been exceeded, thus resulting in extremely high data bills.

?When these auto-play videos first rolled out, I seem to remember that Facebook assured everyone that they would only play when on Wi-Fi,? said Matt Kruse, senior developer at Aquent IT Solutions. ?But even if only enabled on Wi-Fi, this is still not a good default option for many users.?

Influx of ads
Many social media sites, including Twitter, have recently been showcasing an increase of video ads over regular ads. Twitter?s new Promoted Videos allow several-second clips of to play in users? timelines with a one-tap experience (see story here).

However, Twitter?s video ads specifically require a tap to begin, signaling that customers must consent to watching the targeted clips. Facebook?s ads begin playing without consent, thus driving users? data bills up exponentially without many of them knowing about it.

?People like my parents use a 3G access point for their Internet at home, and their bandwidth is very limited,? said Mr. Kruse. ?Their computer and devices are all on Wi-Fi, but sharing this limited-bandwidth Internet connection. Facebook can't judge the cost of bandwidth to an individual user based on their connection type.?

This does not bode well for the targeted audience of brands? autoplay video ads. If users become too frustrated with the abundance of ads on their newsfeeds, they are likely to visit the site less or employ ad-blocking applications.

?Facebook pushes a ?feature? that is in the best interest of marketers but annoys users,? said Mr. Kruse. ?Though this is working for them and their share price in the short term, it's impossible to not see the growing discontent among users with the Facebook experience in general. And if they annoy their users enough that they leave or spend less time on the site, then all their marketing optimizations will be worthless as the eyes leave.?

With a surge of video campaigns, such as the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, consumers are steadily faced with more video content than ever on their newsfeeds. The BBC reported that Facebook saw an excess of 2.4 million videos related to the Ice Bucket Challenge posted in recent months.

Although social media sites claim that user interaction works best via video ads, the key is providing streaming options for the users who may prefer to interact with sites and ads differently.

Solution to problem
Users unhappy with Facebook?s video ads can revisit their app settings and manually disable the feature. Once the Facebook app is opened, customers should locate the App Settings page after clicking the menu of the home screen.

The video autoplay option is found in the General Settings, and can be switched from ?On? to ?Off? or ?Wi-Fi only.? Facebook has also confirmed that changes made to the autoplay settings will still be in effect after an app update.

Because an increasing number of companies are paying for autoplay Facebook ads, it does not appear as though Facebook will turn off autoplay as a default setting. This is good news for brands paying for these types of ads, but less than stellar for its targeted viewers.

?An effective, clever ad that a user chooses to view will be far more successful than any autoplay ad ever will be, simply because people do not like having advertising forced upon them,? said Nikole Hogan, director of content and social media at MaconRaine. ?I'd argue that autoplay actually detracts from the credibility of a brand.?

Final Take
Alex Samuely is an editorial assistant at Mobile Marketer, New York