This is What Happens When You Abuse Facebook Promoted Posts

Facebook Promoted Posts Abuse

I’m a big fan of HubSpot. I’m literally a “fan” of HubSpot — a Facebook Fan. But I’ve noticed something unsettling lately.

I see their Promoted Posts in my News Feed every day. Not just a different post every day. It’s usually one of the same posts over and over promoting their eBooks.

They technically may not be Promoted Posts. They could simply be ads created to promote their posts that target multiple places, including News Feeds.

Semantics, but it needs to be said.

This promotion, in and of itself, isn’t terrible. As a Fan, I don’t care. But they are getting a ton of negative comments on these posts as a result.

Here’s a post that was written on November 12 and is still regularly in my News Feed.

Hubspot Promoted Post

It’s received 334 comments. Of those, 33 are public complaints that this is spam.

Oh, and guess how many comments from HubSpot?


It’s pretty obvious which posts have been promoted — or promoted heavily. They’re the ones with the most comments and a ton of complaints. Typically link shares instead of photos.

Like this one. Or this one. Or this one.

They also tend to be flooded with spam and nonsense comments. A bit ironic, I guess.

Other HubSpot posts generally get fewer than 10 comments. This is odd since the Page has over 380,000 Facebook Fans.

You have to wonder if they are creating a vicious cycle for themselves. They use Promoted Posts heavily, which results in significant spam reports. This cues Facebook to show them in fewer News feeds. HubSpot responds by promoting more posts.

It’s like a drug addict. The first time you do it, you get great results. But you’re going to have to promote more and more each additional time to approach those same results.

This isn’t an indictment on Facebook ads in general or Promoted Posts specifically. Both are great. You should use Facebook ads.

But I’m not a fan of how HubSpot is going about their advertising.

1) Don’t Target Promoted Posts at Friends of Fans

Sure, you can target your Promoted Posts at Fans and Fans Plus Friends of Fans. But that doesn’t mean you should do it.

As you can see from the results above, people freak out if they see something in their News Feeds that doesn’t belong there. If you don’t want to be reported as spam, you should be sensitive to this.

If I were HubSpot, I would target these News Feed ads at Fans only. Not only would they reach the people who would most likely care about the post, but the costs would be lower and they’d get fewer spam reports.

They’d also get fewer spam and nonsense comments, which are pretty bad on the posts they promote heavily.

2) The Sidebar is for Everyone

That doesn’t mean that friends of Fans are off limits. To the contrary, they are the first non-Fans whom you should target.

But not in the News Feed. Or at least not excessively.

Yes, you can get some great results when utilizing the News Feed for friends of Fans. But I’m not convinced it’s worth the risk.

Facebook users expect to see content from brands they are not connected to in the sidebar. Use that real estate!

3) Don’t Abuse Promoted Posts

People are very territorial about their News Feeds.

While I’m not turned off by Promoted Posts, I don’t speak for all Facebook users. Don’t abuse them.

Once again, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use Promoted Posts. You should use them so that you reach Fans with important content that satisfies business goals.

I use Promoted Posts to assure that I reach more of my Fans who aren’t online when I post. Such a promotion generally hits the same person only once.

But you shouldn’t hit the same person’s News Feed a dozen times with the same post. Even Fans will have their limits.

4) Don’t Ignore Comments

Finally, take a cue from the comments within your post. If you’re getting bombarded with complaints, adjust. If you’re getting flooded with spam, adjust.

HubSpot is throwing caution to the wind. They’re ignoring the comments. It shows with their actions that they do not care.

It’s Not Just HubSpot

I’m picking on HubSpot here, but it’s not just them. I’m seeing more and more of this — not only the excessive promotion in News Feeds, but the negative backlash.

As advertisers, we need to be sensitive to this. There is a balance.

You wouldn’t stop email marketing altogether if you were getting a ton of unsubscribes and spam reports. You’d adjust the frequency of your messaging.

How About You?

Are you seeing brands abuse Promoted Posts? Are you noticing more negative comments as a result? How does this impact your approach as a brand?

Let me know in the comments below!

  • Amanda Webb

    I’ve seen those Hubspot posts too and the complaints. I was actually horrified recently when I looked at a friends Facebook account and saw my name next to an ad in their newsfeed. Like you I probably like a lot of pages and Facebook advertising meant that friends were seeing ads from all these companies via newsfeed ads targetted at friends of fans. As a result I’ve changed my privacy settings so that my name can’t be used for advertising in this way.

    I personally would steer clear of newsfeed ad’s that target friends of likes in such a specialised area, although I think it could work well for local retailers etc.

    • Jon Loomer

      Thanks for sharing, Amanda. I personally don’t mind if brands use my relationship with them to create ads for my friends, but I know not everyone feels that way. However, it’s definitely a tightrope when you start invading News Feeds.

      • Amanda Webb

        I think the problem is more that because of my work I like a lot of pages that would be unsuitable for my friends. If it was just pages I truly Liked I wouldn’t mind so much. Luckily with Interest lists I no longer have to Like all the pages I use for research.

        • Jon Loomer

          Good point, Amanda! I still don’t use Interest Lists much, though. I know I should. I actually find I get most of my content from Ticker since I don’t spend much time on News Feed these days (which I realize is the opposite of most people).

  • The VMCA

    I agree on two things that a) companies should not abuse promoted posts and b) facebook is doing this kind of thing all to often these days. The part that really gets to me though – is that your average Joe out there doesn’t realise that he is in control of his own facebook feed (to a degree). People complain about receiving posts – but don’t make the connection that they’ve actually *liked* a page and that’s why they’re getting the posts (or less so now – that the page has to “pay” to be seen)…from where I’m standing Google+ is looking more and more attractive.

    • Jon Loomer

      Oh, that’s a battle that will always be there. No matter what it is, the average Facebook user misunderstands what is going on. See the “copy and paste” hoax of the day as an example. It’s frustrating that they don’t get it, but it’s something that needs to be accounted for.

      • Fenny B

        It’s not true that FB users have control over the content that appears in their news feed. I see newsfeed ads (sorry, I won’t call them Suggested Posts, they are adverts) for things I have never liked, that are not even in my country and no way am I the target demographic. FB have removed any way of hiding them, removing them or complaining about them.

        Savvy users will use Adblock Plus and Social Fixer to remove as many ads as possible, but this doesn;t work on mobiles. The frustration there are the ads which have huge images that fill the mobile screen. Those, I will make comments on. I have no problem in complaining about something that is using up my data allowance. That’s like a marketing call where they reverse the charges.

  • Lori Joyner Harris

    Wonder why Hubspot is pursuing this strategy? I, too, have received a couple of “don’t post this spam in my newsfeed” comments. I was targeting friends of fans so may need to re-think that strategy.

    But I do it sparingly and most recently was promoting an event.

    If several pages I like started running promoted posts today, my newsfeed would be mostly ads and I would turn off Facebook. Something to consider.

    • Jon Loomer

      It’s always a balance. It doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t promote posts, run Facebook ads or even promote to friends of Fans. But all should be done with an understanding of risk and reward. Right now, it’s not so clear that HubSpot is working this balance.

      • Steve Cameron

        I have queried a few times with fb if there is any way to limit the frequency of the ad placements as there is with Google display ads – whereby you can limit the number of times your ad will be seen by the same user – it appears there isn’t. Bu t is a very necessary feature as without it more and more companies will abandon News Feed advertising. You are right – it is a fine line – and whilst there will always be some people who get annoyed at any ads, most people inherently understand that they need to be there to pay for the platform – but they do start to feel abused by repeated ads very quickly.

  • Lisa Hall-Wilson

    I just hide them – never appear in my newsfeed again. Gone. Drives me insane. I find the ads worse on mobile for some reason. When pages do this, if I’m interested in their content, I’ll follow them when I want to on an Interest list and banish the ads and promoted and suggested posts from my newsfeed.

    • Jon Loomer

      I actually have no problem with ads in general, and I don’t even mind seeing the occasional ad in my News Feed. But it is annoying if it’s the same ad and same brand over and over again in my News Feed. It’s overkill.

      Thanks for sharing, Lisa!

  • Scott Linklater

    What about Promoted Page Post Ads with no sponsored story? In The ad manager (the basic one) it shows an example of what the ad looks like when it is in the right hand sidebar.

    Are you saying that these are also showing up in newsfeeds as well? Under what circumstances are they showing up if you say, target a bunch of precise interests and have the connections set to anyone?



    p.s. I’ve done a lot of facebook advertising but it still confuses me where
    some ads are shown and what constitutes certain things. It just isn’t very clear.

    • Jon Loomer

      Scott — the typical Page Post ad wouldn’t appear in News Feeds. Or at least, this is my understanding — I rarely create ads in the Ads Manager these days. Typically, you can only create News Feed ads with Promoted Posts or through Power Editor/third party API.

      • Scott Linklater

        Yea that’s what I thought too but i was being lazy and creating these through the basic ad manager. Interesting to say the least. I have expanded the discussion on this in your latest post too as it really has baffled me.


      • Dennis Yu

        I’d never do promoted posts, but I would use the API or Power Editor if you want to get into the newfeed with posts or sponsored stories. My 2 cents!

        • Jon Loomer

          That’s a valuable 2 cents! Agreed, I never (rarely) use Ad Manager these days. Missing out on too much! I was actually a bit surprised by how much it changed when I took a look the other day.

  • Chris Richards

    Funny, I just un-liked Hubspot because, after looking over my girlfriend’s shoulder at her FB, I’ve seen an ad for Hubspot – prompted by my Like – each time I’ve looked! That’s just ridiculous. I’d hate to be the “carrier” of any other over-promoted pages!

    • Jon Loomer

      Haha… Yeah. I personally don’t get creeped out by that stuff, Chris, but I know some do. Overall, it’s just the over-promotion within News Feed to non-Fans in particular that can be a bit overboard. That said, I’m kind of tired of seeing the same things from HubSpot every day, too.

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  • Zach Emly

    As marketers we understand why we are seeing all these ads and I think we are able to ignore them or even in some circumstances appreciate them (good ones anyway). But for the normal Joe, it can be quite annoying, especially if it’s irrelevant. I am a Facebook fan of Hubspot, but maybe 1% of my friends could benefit from what they have to offer.

    We can’t blame the companies for aggressively advertising, gotta do what you got to do right? Can’t sit around and miss the money on the table. But personally I am liking Facebook less and less (as a marketer and a consumer). I really like Google+ although I have not dove much into it business wise.

    • Jon Loomer

      I agree with most of this, except for one point:

      “We can’t blame the companies for aggressively advertising, gotta do what you got to do right?”

      Yes, you should advertise. But “aggressive” doesn’t need to mean aimlessly and recklessly. You should target people with relevant information, being conscious not to overdo it. There is always a line you need to avoid crossing that will lead to more harm than good. HubSpot appears to be crossing it.

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  • Robin O’List

    Very good post Jon, Marketers need to be careful when ‘advertising’ on Facebook’s Newsfeed because it’s the user’s ‘personal space’ and many people still can’t accept that advertising is important to keep free things alive. But when the marketer doesn’t even bother to monitor/respond to the comments it just leads everyone to think its a faceless brand. I must say i am surprised to hear this from Hubspot as i thought they knew better

    I have been lucky so far in that I haven’t had negative comments on any of my promoted posts/sponsored stories, but i keep a close eye on the frequency of my posts because I don’t want to annoy the user by seeing my ads every day.

    I keep all my ads fresh and relevant to the user, I also try to ensure that all comments are answered when there is a need for it.


  • makemyblogmoney

    The old saying is “even bad press is good press”…I don’t think it applies here. Overexposure to people seems to leave a bad taste in their mouth about you.

    I too have seen many different brands as a permanent limb on my Facebook timeline and frankly, it’s a little aggravating.

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  • David Cummer

    I loathe Facebook spam, but then I loathe advertising and marketing in general.

    It’s not so much the territory issue, but the data mining that really cheeses me off.

    The company that I’m having the hardest time with, and seem to be getting “hit on” by the most is RackHost, and I alway respond via the “Spam/Hide” button (when available and the comment thread, and fill both with nonsese like “This is spam” endlessly repeated.

  • Davedma

    I have messaged advertisers to complain about the amount if ads they were putting in my newsfeed, one well known company responded saying they have ads on there page also and I should just get used to it! I don’t buy from them anymore!

    • Fenny B

      Not only do I not buy from them, but I’d actively encourage others not to buy from them as well,

      The other response is that they didn’t know that ads are appearing in the newsfeed and that their ad money is being used incorrectly, so they will stop advertising on FB. Those companies are the good guys.

      Users aren’t as dumb as advertisers here seem to thing. We understand that FB is funded by adverts and don’t care if they appear in the side bar. I think that the advertisers need to understand the impact of those ads and re-think whether FB is the right place to advertise.

  • Starlene Stewart

    Facebook won’t allow us to target just our fans any longer. I tried to sponsor a post the other day (checked it again today) and the only option is fans and their friends. I had stopped promoting to friends of fans because it blows through advertising so quickly. Now we have no other choice.

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  • Dan Jost

    Hey Jon,

    Just to do an experiment that could give us a comparison,
    how many negative comments does Hubspot receive on a non-promoted post
    (if any?). The promoted post had approx a 10% negative feedback rate. I’d be interested to know the other ratio.

    Side note: The most spammy page in my Feed that goes buck wild with promoted posts (as well as copy) is the Get 10,000 Fans guy.

  • Melissa Toppenberg

    Great post! Thank you!

  • Guest

    What you don’t understand is that money makers don’t really care about how you call their advertisemet, they are there to sell you a product. Maybe not to you, but hundreds of others will buy it, and that’s a fact. They don’t pay attention too much on people complaining, they wouldn’t buy their product anyway. So, spam=profit on the internet, always was and always will. And Facebook is made to be used as spam platform, sometimes with more sometimes with less taste. But generally, it’s not made for anything else but to extract money from people. Period.

  • Benjamin

    Hi John,
    I know you posted this a long time ago, but you might still be interested by our study:
    We looked at the impact of promoted posts on EdgeRank, crunching thousands of pages and posts. We found out that Facebook is fair and do filter out the effect of negative feedback form promoted posts.
    The complete study can be found here:

    Let us know if you find it interesting or have any questions.

  • Robin Hodson

    Only problem with promoted posts if fb Tell you it’s promoted/sponsored. If they didn’t, you’d just think it’s cool news, or something a friend likes.

  • Tom Woodnutt

    Hi Jon, great post. . .I totally agree that suggested posts can all too often feel like an invited gate-crasher. My view is that the strategy behind them needs to be more focused on creating reciprocal value in the first place…then people will be less likely to be abusive. I’ve written a post on that here if it’s of any interest, would love to know your thoughts….

  • Bill D.

    Great insightful article Jon

    I wish Mark Z at Facebook and all the brats would just get cancer and die early deaths

    They’re so cocky, man. We’ve spent hundreds of thousands on ads and we still don’t know how to use Power Editor

    The Facebook Development Team reminds me of the punks I knew at MIT and CalTech – always trying to prove how ‘brainy’ they are and how ‘stupid’ their clients are

    Why? We supported them with hundreds of thousands in advertising? It’s because THEY DON’T CARE. They’re laughing their way to the bank.

    Even though they have tons of money, they’re still losers. They will never understand compassion, mercy, giving, generosity, love, etc – they’re rich, bratty robots who ingest internet porn and flip their fingers up to God. Can’t wait until they meet Him.

    In the meantime, we’re going to use Jon’s advice and sign up with him

  • Frey

    Is there a way to disable comments from a promoted post or an ad? I would like to disable comments because my ad has been hit with negative comments as well.