Facebook is all set to allow ‘Sponsored Stories’ social advertisements in the ‘news feed’ from early 2012. This could prove to be a turning point for online advertising and dig into the pockets of current paid search and display advertising offered by Google Adwords and Adsense.
Sponsored Stories are Facebook’s ad units which turn a user’s page updates, likes, application activities and checkins into advertisement. Sponsored Stories were introduced for the first time in early 2011.
This is a drastic change for Facebook which hasn’t shown advertisements in the ‘News Feed’ since 2008. The ads will be displayed as ‘sponsored’ and would be limited to just one story per day. Users’ won’t be able to opt out of the sponsored stories which will be related to the pages they like and their friends’ activity. However, they can block certain ads depending on personal preference so that what they view in their news feed is not offensive or misleading. This would also act as feedback mechanism on the network to allow effective retargeting.
This would prove to be a major boost for advertisers, who are already using fans page activity and user generated content as sponsored social ads, which through this initiative would also appear in the organic feed of the user. So far, sponsored stories were displayed distinctly on the side bar of the organic feed of the user termed as news feed. The sponsored stories in the current format command an impressive 46% click through rate and with an revamped format it is expected to be even higher. According to various researches done on online behaviour, users spend most of their online time on Facebook and socialising with their friends, another reason for Facebook to offer advertisers more ways to utilise the platform.
Social ads increase the relevance of an advertisement by acting as a direct referral from a user’s fan base on the platform. These are considered to be unobtrusive unlike traditional advertisements and are more of an opt-in service transforming the activity on the platform as a source of advertisements.
Following similar trend of giving more priority to advertisers within the social news stream on social networks, Twitter had introduced ‘Promoted Tweets’ within users’ timeline early in the year. Experts believe there is always a risk of backlash as thriving social networks which prioritise a positive user experience have been averse to include advertisements within users’ social interactions. However, the subtlety with which Twitter and now Facebook aim to woe advertisers the risk is minimal.
The sponsored stories would be introduced on the mobile devices with some delay. Founded by Mark Zuckerberg in 2004, Facebook is world’s largest social network with 800mn overall members.
This story of mine was first published in Daily Post. You can access it here