Sponsored Stories: Facebook Advertising as It Should Be

This week Facebook announced that “Sponsored Story” ads will start being integrated into user News Feeds, moving from the right side margin of the browser window.

The move represents a big opportunity for brands because it gives Sponsored Stories prime real estate, making the ads more likely to be seen and interacted with, but the opportunity goes much deeper than that.

If Your Friend Jumped Off a Cliff, Would You Too? Umm… Maybe.

The power of Sponsored Stories isn’t just the visibility. It’s that they are generated by endorsements from Facebook Friends. A user’s brand interaction, such as liking a post, commenting, checking in, sharing, RSVPing to an event and so on, can be turned into an ad, which makes the ad much more relevant to consumers.

Seeing an ad is one thing, but seeing that my friend has liked a piece of content or commented is something completely different. It takes relevance to another level, making me more likely to take action.

The Ads Facebook Was Made For

Facebook is a social and “action-oriented” platform. A static display ad has power, but leveraging the actions of others to create more compelling ad experiences is something Facebook can do like no other platform.

A friend’s action makes for a relevant and engaging ad, but that only scratches the surface of how relevant these ads can truly be.

The Next Layer of Relevance—Location

Bloomberg has reported that Facebook may start to integrate Sponsored Stories into mobile user News Feeds in March. If this is the case, the relevance goes to another level. As Facebook continues to evolve its Facebook Places offering, brands could deliver Sponsored Stories based on location, so not only would a user see that a friend likes a brand but also that the brand has a store next door.

The opportunity to bridge the gap between recommendations from friends and location is significant. It may be a potent combination in turning brand prospects into customers.

Social Advertising

Sponsored Stories are a different kind of ad. They take actions and highlight them for specific users. Sponsored Stories aren’t strongest with mass reach. Where they shine is reaching people who count with truly contextual content relevant to their social connections. This combination of relevance based on your connections, concrete action taken by trusted friends to “endorse” a brand and prime visibility should make marketers give Sponsored Stories another look.