Inside Facebook was one of the first to announce that Facebook was rolling out a new ad format called Sponsored Stories. What Sponsored Stories does is take content from the News Feed (particularly liked pages, posted links, and check-ins) and repurposes this into an advertisement where the top of the ad starts with your (or one of your friends) profile picture and name followed by what you had posted on your News Feed.
Leaving privacy (or general creepiness) issues aside, I’d like to focus on the advertising opportunities related to this new Facebook ad format that is completely different from the marketing strategy in which marketer buy Facebook account.
Increased relevance and most likely better performance
Expect increased click-through rates and a better value from the number of your impressions (dare I say it, that an impression in this case is more likely to mean someone that actually took the time to view your ad). Since the ad starts with a name and image from one of your friends you are more likely to notice the ad and be interested in what it says.
Facebook’s standard ads already include how many of your friends have already liked a page or a particular ad, but in the standard format, this information is included on the bottom of the ad and does not include additional commentary like Sponsored Stories do.
Facebook refers to this new ad format as “word-of-mouth recommendations” and “personalized recommendations.” In reality, people post updates for a variety of reasons and while it is clear the person wanted to share this information with his or her network, it does not mean they recommend the link or check-in. In particular, someone could check-in to a restaurant and then comment on that check-in that the service was horrible or the meal was amongst the worst ever.
With Facebook’s Sponsored Stories both the check-in and the comment will be included in the ad. This creates the potential for Advertisers to pay to have a negative comment spread throughout Facebook. While Facebook will certainly look to put in controls to limit this from happening, it goes without saying that this ad format gives up complete control of the advertising message. How many other paid placement advertisements can you say that about? None.
Opportunities to optimize
The smart advertiser will look to find ways to encourage their messages (or at least desired messages) being posted into the News Feed. While the liked pages portion is straight forward, it takes a little more strategy to encourage positive check-ins or article links.
Posting interesting articles about your brand on your Facebook page and within the post stating “if you liked this, please repost on your News Feed” is a simple way to potentially encourage your desired content making it into a Sponsored Story.
For check-ins, you can easily incentivize (within Facebook Places or even within your business – on a menu for instance) people to check-in and include a positive comment. Something such as “check-in and say something nice for a free drink on us” would be incentive enough to get people to not only check-in but to also get a personalized and positive comment that could end up as Sponsored Story. It also hopefully curtails the odds of a negative comment being selected as part of a Sponsored Story.
Not for everyone
Facebook Sponsored Stories is considered a premium placement within Facebook’s advertising offerings. This means you must spend at least $25,000 on Facebook. Don’t expect this price level to change any time soon as Facebook has placed many of its ad formats within this premium placement level. Don’t feel completely left out, though, as standard Facebook ads offer a lot of opportunities as well if you have yet to try them.