A Brief Guide to Facebook Sponsored Stories

Facebook advertising is one of the most easy and accessible advertising platforms ever developed, and according to EMarketer and  ComScore, advertisers have made Facebook the #1 publisher of display advertising on the internet. By providing a self-service platform, Facebook allows businesses small and large to develop and monitor highly targeted ad campaigns within minutes. And by creating Sponsored Stories ad formats, Facebook has created a way for brands to increase the likelihood that a brand’s content will be seen by their target audience. And by providing a “social” layer to the ad, the chances of engagement go up, since a consumer is more likely to notice the action of their friends. When combined with standard Facebook display advertising, sponsored stories can drive brand awareness and engagement beyond your existing fan base.

There are several formats for Sponsored Stories, but they boil down to two basic types: one format (the Page Post) is targeted to your current fans, and all the others are targeted to the friends of those who have interacted with your brand’s content. For the latter type, this added layer of “social endorsement” can result in higher ad performance; for the campaigns with which I have been involved, this extra endorsement provided more strength to ads for a more well-known brand compared to a less-well-known brand.

When running Sponsored Stories ads using the self-service platform, there are three formats to choose from: The Page Post, the Page Like, and the Page Post Like, with variations of each for Applications or Domains.

  • The Page Post Sponsored Story is directed to your current fans. It takes the brand’s post and delivers in an ad format to existing fans. It may seem strange to use a format like this: you may be saying to yourself: “why wouldn’t my fans just read my post in their news feed – why would I spend money to deliver my post as an ad to them?” There are two reasons: (1) Your post won’t be published at the same time that all of your fans are online, so your post will move down in their news feed as time passes. (2) Facebook uses an algorithm to determine what content is displayed in the Top News feed of each Facebook member. If a fan is interacting with your brand less often that with their other connections on Facebook, they may not see your post in their news feed at all. The Page Post Sponsored Story is a way to be sure they see your post.
  • The Page Like and the Page Post Like is directed to the friends of your fans. A Page Like story lets friends of current brand fans know that one of their connections “liked” your brand page. This story can be published when they like your page directly from Facebook and also when they use the Like box on your brand’s web site. A Page Post Like story lets them know that one of their connections “liked” on one of your brand posts.  As with the Page Post sponsored story, you may wonder why you need to pay to create an ad for this: a “like” action will show up in the news feed of their friends. The answer is the same: these ad increase the likelihood that the action will be noticed.
You can use these formats to promote a brand Page, a Place, and Application, or even a website that is external to Facebook. Ads can be generated when a friend plays a game, uses or shares an application, checked in at a brand place, liked or shared a piece of content on your web site, or pasted a link from your site into their status update. Sponsored stories only happen when a consumer takes an action, so it makes sense to run standard Facebook display ads to increase the rate of consumer activity at the same time you are running sponsored stories.
Facebook’s own guide to sponsored stories provides more detail and links to additional content for developers and analysts.

One thought on “A Brief Guide to Facebook Sponsored Stories

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