On January 24, 2011 Inside Facebook was one of the first to announce that Facebook was rolling out a new ad format called Sponsored Stories. What Sponsored Stories does is take content from the News Feed (particularly liked pages, posted links and check-ins) and repurposes this into an advertisement where the top of the ad starts with your (or one of your friends) profile picture and name followed by what you had posted on your News Feed.
Leaving privacy (or general creepiness) issues aside, I’d like to focus on the advertising opportunities related to this new Facebook ad format.
Increased relevance and most likely better performance
Expect increased click-through rates and a better value from your impressions number (dare I say it, that an impression in this case is more likely to mean someone that actually took the time to view your ad). Since the ad starts with a name and image from one of your friends you are more likely to notice the ad and be interested in what it says.
Facebook’s standard ads already include how many of your friends have already liked a page or a particular ad, but in the standard format this information is included on the bottom of the ad and does not include additional commentary like Sponsored Stories do.
Facebook refers to this new ad format as “word-of-mouth recommendations” and “personalized recommendations.” In reality, people post updates for a variety of reasons and while it is clear the person wanted to share this information with his or her network, it does not mean they recommend the link or check-in. In particular, someone could check-in to a restaurant and then comment on that check-in that the service was horrible or the meal was amongst the worst ever.
With Facebook’s Sponsored Stories both the check-in and the comment will be included in the ad. This creates the potential for Advertisers to pay to have a negative comment spread throughout Facebook. While Facebook will certainly look to put in controls to limit this from happening, it goes without saying that this ad format gives up complete control of the advertising message. How many other paid placement advertisements can you say that about? None.
Opportunities to optimize
The smart advertiser will look to find ways to encourage their messages (or at least desired messages) being posted into the News Feed. While the liked pages portion is straight forward, it takes a little more strategy to encourage positive check-ins or article links.
Posting interesting articles about your brand on your Facebook page and within the post stating “if you liked this, please repost on your News Feed” is a simple way to potentially encourage your desired content making it into a Sponsored Story.
For check-ins, you can easily incentivize (within Facebook Places or even within your business – on a menu for instance) people to check-in and include a positive comment. Something such as “check-in and say something nice for a free drink on us” would be incentive enough to get people to not only check-in, but to also get a personalized and positive comment that could end up as Sponsored Story. It also hopefully curtails the odds of a negative comment being selected as part of a Sponsored Story.
Not for everyone
Facebook Sponsored Stories is considered a premium placement within Facebook’s advertising offerings. This means you must spend at least $25,000 with Facebook. Don’t expect this price level to change any time soon as Facebook has placed many of its ad formats within this premium placement level. Don’t feel completely left out, though, as standard Facebook ads offer a lot of opportunities as well if you have yet to try them.
If you are interested in learning more about Facebook advertising opportunities, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Recently there has been a lot of discussion about how many Facebook likers actually make it back to a Facebook page after they like it. This was a topic at the recently completed Facebook Success Summit (#fbss10), particularly the presentation by Jeff Widman. Some people have stated that as much as 90% of your likers won’t return to your page after liking it.
This, however, does not mean they won’t interact with your page. It just means it has to be done on their terms, which means within the Facebook news feed. The critical element here is that getting into the Facebook news feed, and more importantly within top news, is no guarantee. Facebook’s default limit for number of people you see in the news feed is set at 250.
To help ensure you make it into the news feed and get to the top of mountain, the top news, you need to concentrate on Facebook post optimization. The Facebook newsfeed is the lifeblood of Facebook itself. Its Grand Central Station and you need to find a way to stand out from the masses. To do this you should first understand a little about Facebook’s algorithm called EdgeRank (source: TechCrunch) which employs the following criteria to determine which posts are important:
- Affinity: How often do you interact with this Facebook page. Interactions include, in weighted order: posting on the wall, responding to posts, viewing the page and liking a post.
- Time: The older the post is the less likely it will appear in either news feed and the less weight it begins to hold for the affinity score.
With this in mind, here is what you can do to increase customer engagement with your Facebook posts and better your chances for being seen in both news feeds:
Post as a question
One of the best ways to encourage action is to post as a question. Be sure to put the question in the first sentence of the post so it cannot be missed.
Post in the morning
Many people have stated that posts in the morning tend to get better responses. The best way to find your sweet spot for posting time is to test out different times and track responses (comments and likes).
If there are interesting articles related to your brand or industry post them and include a question at the beginning asking for feedback. Articles tend to have a good response rate and they also have the added benefit of taking up more space in the news feed because a link and image are included.
People love pictures. They tend to have some of the highest response rates. One of the reasons being, as already mentioned, they catch your eye and take up additional space in the news feed. Basically, they stand out from the clutter. An added benefit is that when people click on your pictures they will be sent to your Facebook page.
Keep it short and simple
Facebook may not have the 140 character limit that Twitter does, but if you want to encourage responses to your posts keeping them short and simple is one of the best ways.
Pretty straight forward, but if you posts more often you increase your chances of being seen. The caveat to this is post quality and spacing out your posts otherwise you risk becoming an annoyance and users may block you from their news feed or take the further step of unliking your page.
Create an emotional connection
If you can create an emotional connection with your post you will see the response rate for comments explode compared to your average posts. Things such as “remember the first time you” will connect with people and get them to tell you their story. Give people a forum to want to talk about themselves and you are set.
While providing incentive can be a double-edged sword it does tend to be an effective way to elicit a response. If the incentive is directly tied to simply responding to your post you’ll want to make it something simple. You do not want to train people that the only reason they should respond to your post is because there is an incentive. Also, keep the incentive something related to your brand. If it is a $10 Starbucks gift card almost anyone will reply, but what is really the long-term value of these people? You want people that are customers or potential customers responding.
With these tactics you will be well on the way to being seen within the Facebook news feed and hopefully getting into the Top News. Now, post away!