September 13, 2013, 1:27 PM

Facebook examines how mobile users respond to auto-playing videos

The test could foreshadow video ads in users’ news feeds on the social network.

Lead Photo

A look at the Facebook video feature

Facebook Inc. said yesterday it is testing how its users react to videos that play automatically on mobile versions of the social network.

When a user sees a video in his news feed, it will automatically play without sound. If the user taps the video, a full screen version of the video will play with sound.

For now, the test involves only videos that individual users, celebrities or musicians upload to the site. It will not automatically play videos from embedded links that stem from YouTube, Vimeo or other video-content sites.

While Facebook is not yet ready to roll out video ads, the social network says it is examining how to let marketers use auto-playing videos without annoying Facebook users. Facebook plans to “explore how to bring this to marketers in the future,” writes Kelly Mayes, a product manager at the social network, in a blog post.

Facebook has to be careful in how it introduces video ads so that they provide value to marketers without sparking user backlash, says Nate Elliott, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research Inc. 

But Facebook needs to use video—or some other way to attract users’ attention—to make its ads work better, he says.

“Facebook’s ads aren’t very compelling,” he says. He notes he is  analyzing data from a survey that found many marketers say Facebook ads aren’t working as well as they would expect.

“[Facebook] has to do something to make their ads work better,” he says. “Marketers aren’t clamoring for video, but they are clamoring for effectiveness.”

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