Sponsored stories are one of the Facebook Ad types that businesses can run to promote their products or services to users of the Facebook platform.
Essentially what they are is a high visibility newsfeed item that is shown to friends of the people that interact with your Facebook Page. The newsfeed item highlights the friends involvement be that a ‘like’ or comment and carries with it an element of social proof or recommendation.
Their(sponsored stories) method of operation was recently challenged in a court case which is summarised in this ABC news story.
“Facebook has agreed to pay $10 million to charity to settle a lawsuit accusing the site of violating users’ rights to control the use of their own names, photographs and likenesses, according to court documents.”
Simplistically – several people took offence that their names and photos were being used to promote a company without their express permission.
The ABC story pulls some telling quotes from the court documents from key Facebook personnel about sponsored stories.
“Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg was quoted as saying that a trusted referral was the ‘Holy Grail’ of advertising.”
“Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg, saying the value of a ‘sponsored story’ advertisement was at least twice and up to three times the value of a standard Facebook.com ad without a friend endorsement.”
While some healthy scepticism might be warranted given their vested interest in Facebook, its fair enough that these heavy weights know exactly the effectiveness of the different ad types.
Given their comments can you afford not to start including these types of ads in your marketing mix?
Facebook Ad Options
Although not a full tutorial I’ll just quickly highlight the Facebook Ads options you should be looking for when running a sponsored story. In this case when someone ‘likes’ our page we want to promote this action to their friends. There is an increased chance that their friends in turn will also be interested in your page. The friends will see the name and image of the person that has liked your page next to your page name which lends social proof or as Zuckerburg puts it – turns it into a trusted referral.
Head over to facebook.com/ads to get started.
There are a number of targeting options available and as the images below show you want to choose to promote your business page and then choose in our case the ‘Stories about their friends liking‘ your page option.
The connections targeting will already then be setup as below. What it means is that you are only showing your sponsored stories to a narrow sub-set of Facebook users – ie those that already have a friend that likes your page.
This minimises wasted eyeballs and ensures that when the ads show the person seeing them also sees their friend’s name and image next to your page name.
An example of what a sponsored story looks like is shown here.
The trend to more paid promotion on Facebook
How often do you unfriend someone or unlike a page on Facebook?
It doesn’t happen that frequently. This is leading to people having larger and larger numbers of Facebook friends and also following more and more business or interest pages.
The status updates from all these friends and pages then have to compete via Facebook’s Edgerank algorithm just to be seen in the newsfeed. (If you didn’t know then many if not most of your fans won’t see every status update that you put on your page in their newsfeed)
This increasing competition for newsfeed visibility and Facebook’s transition to a public company with shareholders looking for a ROI is leading to an environment where paid promotion on Facebook will be more the norm.
When is the right time to start Facebook Ads?
As more businesses try out Facebook Ads and with the continuing avalanche of large marketing budgets moving online, costs for Facebook Ads via the auction system are going up.
If you are the slightest bit interested in reaching your prospects on Facebook then yesterday was probably the right time to start but this week is good too. Delaying is costing you money in rising ad costs and lost business to competitors who are getting in early.
I’d love to hear about your experiences with Facebook Ads? What have you found works for you?