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Facebook Sponsored Stories: A New Era in Online Advertising

poirier-marc-2012
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Last summer I decided to change things around with my weekly fishing expeditions. Instead of always going for walleye, I would now start getting into some salmon and lake trout.

But these species feed in much deeper water than I would reach with my existing equipment. I needed to buy some new equipment, like downriggers and temperature sensors.

I read about this stuff online, but at the end of it all, I still had no idea what brand and models to focus on, so I turned to my friends for advice, then I took their advice and spent lots of money on some new gear. Just an example of how well word of mouth works.

In fact the "ask your friends" method has been quite reliable for me over the years and it's almost always how I make any purchasing decisions, my trusted friends have a lot of influence over what my choices will be.

It's no surprise then that Facebook, "the social network," would find a way to leverage these dynamics to power a new type of advertising. And they did.

Facebook Sponsored Stories

This year Facebook introduced Sponsored Stories, a series of new ad types. I think these are a whole new paradigm for advertising -- truly social advertising.

Kristine Schachinger covered Sponsored Stories from a Facebook user's perspective earlier this year. I thought I'd write the advertiser's perspective on the same product.

Sponsored stories are designed to let a Facebook user's friends discover the brands that they like. Currently, when a friend likes a page, checks in somewhere or interacts with an application, a news feed entry is generated and their friends may or may not see it. With sponsored stories, brands can use the Facebook ads system to create their stories and determine who to target and how much to pay.

How it Works

  1. Someone likes your page, interacts with your application or checks in to your location.

  2. Normally, a story about this activity is generated on all their friends' news feeds, which their friends may or may not see due to the dynamic nature of the news feed.

  3. By including Sponsored Stories within your Facebook ads campaign, this person's friend can now also see the story appear in the right-hand side of the page in a much more controlled and predictable way.

There is a second way to use sponsored stories -- page posts. This is simply a way to make sure any page updates are displayed to those people who have liked your page. This is the only type of sponsored story, which doesn't carry through to their friends, but only to your fans.

Let's take a look at what these sponsored stories look like:

Page Likes

If you have fans, this is definitely the right place to start. You will gain immediate access to the friends of all those people who have liked you.

story-like.jpg

These are only shown to friends of the person in the sponsored story.

Application Interactions

If you have an application on Facebook, then this is a must (but of course most businesses don't have a Facebook app).

Story App Interaction

These are only shown to friends of the person in the sponsored story.

Place Check-Ins

If you run the type of business with a physical location where people tend to check in on Facebook then this is definitely of interest.

story-check-in.jpg

These are only shown to friends of the person in the sponsored story.

Page Posts

This is a different type of sponsored story - keep your fans engaged with your page content by displaying it in a sponsored story.

story-page-post.jpg

These are only show to the people who have liked your page.

How to Get Started

Sponsored stories are created from the Facebook ads environment, it's simply another type of ad which can be part of an existing or a new campaign. They can be narrowed down with likes and interests or with demographics, they are available in CPM and CPC and there is no need to create any ad per se, the ads are completely auto-generated.

Facebook says the early results are very positive, some of the most notable benefits are highly increased brand recall, notwithstanding the power of personal recommendations that come with the territory. It will obviously be interesting how that translates into some harder ROI numbers as more and more advertisers give this new type of ad a shot.

I am running two sponsored stories at the moment and the results are indeed better than our standard Facebook ads campaigns -- we're seeing 3 times on click-through rates and our cost per action is roughly half what it is on standard ads. Volume seems to be quite strong as well.

Have any experience with sponsored stories you'd like to share? That's what the comments are for!


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