Sponsored Stories in the News Feed



A few years ago, my friend and I decided to pull an April Fool’s prank, and set our Facebook statuses that we were engaged. I don’t recommend this, since some of the Facebook friends you don’t interact with on a regular basis, and even family members may actually believe it, as was the case with all the congratulations and celebratory wishes we recieved. What was even more surprising to me was that my profile was instantly bombarded with advertisements for bridal and wedding services. The “change” of relationship status had flipped me into a new ad demographic. The ads were much more tailored to my “situation” than the ads I usually got, but were still very impersonal. Do you remember those ads? They were to the right of your profile, and often had nothing to do with you, your friends, or what you were truly interested in (they were also very difficult to delete). That was then and this is now.

Sponsored Stories started showing up in the ticker last fall, as an experiment to see how users would react to paid content being blended with organic content. There was no major backlash, so Facebook proceeded with integrating Sponsored Stories into the main news feed in January. There are several different types of Sponsored Stories, as featured in the image below.

This is magnificent news for marketers. The number of eyes that glance through the news feed each day is huge, meaning an ad featured in the news feed will have excellent potential for reach. Add to that the fact that these ads are untraditional in the sense that they are correlated with what you and your friends already like, and it sounds as if Facebook has a slam dunk in terms of a revenue source and engagement for advertisers. Not to mention, as a user, it makes the ad experience much more personalized and interesting, as a main reason people spend so much time in the new feed is exactly that, to see what their friends are up to. With Sponsored Stories, brands can pay to highlight these interactions, turning them into ads in one of the most heavily trafficked places on the web.

The difference between the Sponsored Story ads and the regular news feed stories is that the Sponsored Stories will be tagged as promoted. A recent example from my own news feed would be Cross Fit. I have a few friends who have mentioned the Reebok Cross Fit workout in their status updates, checked in at a Cross Fit class or “Liked” their local Cross Fit gym. These stories are organic. Cross Fit could buy a Sponsored Story ad that would also appear in my news feed according to which or how many of my friends “Liked”, or interacted with the brand. That story would look like this Sponsored Stories ad for Starbucks:

Placing Sponsored Story ads in the news feed gives users an extra chance to see your brand logo while they’re on Facebook. In short, a Sponsored Story contains the following:

  • Company logo (from Brand Page on Facebook)
  • Concise description of the business
  • Friends who Like the page
  • Labeled as “Promoted” so users are aware it is paid content

As Facebook continues to add stories, such as check ins, Sponsored Stories, and content that is ranked through Edgerank, it will be interesting to see how these ads perform against ads placed in other locations throughout Facebook, such as on app landing tabs  or photo pages. Sponsored Stories in the news feed can be thought of as a close cousin to word of mouth marketing in the digital landscape. It’s not quite Yelp, however, a “Like” from a close friend or family member is more beneficial to a brand than a review from a stranger. Sponsored Stories in the news feed are sure to be a win for any brand who wants to build rapport with their Facebook fans.

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Post written by Tia Marie Kemp aka @TiaMarieKemp.

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