What’s in a name?
You may have noticed that Facebook has a nice (and slightly deceptive?) way of labeling advertisements on their website. “Sponsored” is the header you see above ads as you browse through Pages and Profiles.
You may have also noticed a different version of these ads, although you might not have known that they were actually advertisements:
How do Facebook’s Sponsored Stories work?
Sponsored Stories are social ads, which harness the influence of your friends by displaying their recent interactions with brands in the form of advertisements.
Imagine that you are driving down the freeway and you see a billboard for the latest Pirates of the Caribbean movie. Then you notice your friend’s face is emblazoned across the billboard as well, with their opinion of the movie, “I thought Johnny Depp was better than ever!” highlighted for you to see! The creators of the billboard know that YOU would be most interested in seeing your OWN friend’s opinion of the film, not the opinion of a critic or a stranger. So the billboard intuitively showed you the most influential message possible. Sponsored stories are essentially the same thing, on a much smaller scale.
You might have seen similar types of ads on other websites. Twitter calls its ads “Promoted Tweets.” You can see here an example of a promoted tweet and a promoted trending topic:
Using the viral nature of Facebook’s Share and Like
With Sponsored Stories, Facebook has harnessed all of its existing viral features – like check-ins, the like button, sharing, and more – and is now selling that social power to advertisers. When your friends “like” something or check-in somewhere, normally you would see that information in your news feed. Now companies can actually pay to have that information show up more prominently and less ephemerally in the right-hand column of the Facebook interface.
Here is a notification I see on Facebook because two of my friends have liked a Facebook Page. Walmart uses those likes to catch my attention in a Sponsored Story:
How are Facebook’s Sponsored Stories different from regular ads?
Sponsored Stories are run and paid for in the same way as normal Facebook ads. You can pick a demographic, age range, etc. and you pay a price per click. But the key difference lies in the content being displayed, and this you DO have control over.
You can see in these screenshots that when I practiced setting up a Sponsored Story ad, I was given the choice of what TYPE OF AD to display:
Then I could choose a STORY TYPE:
You can see that the layout and content of the ad changes depending on what type of story you choose. You can display Page likes, or reactions to your Wall posts. The “like” stories are simple and clear, telling you that your friend has liked a Page. The “post” stories have more content, and tell you what sort of information is being shared on a Page.
Here is my question to you: Which type of story do you think is most influential?
Here is a video created by the Facebook Marketing team to explain how Sponsored Stories work.
Facebook’s Help Center: What are Sponsored Stories?
A Read Write Web article: Sponsored Stories Are More Effective Than Facebook Ads