You’ve had a crazy work day, so you pop into the Mega Mocha World for your favorite blended drink. Just because you want to connect with friends, you write about the mocha minute on your Facebook Wall. That sentence you posted may have put an advertising machine in motion.
Now, Mega Mocha World has glommed onto your mention of them. Thanks to a new Facebook advertising product, Sponsored Stories pulls content from members’ posts to use them in ads on their Friends’ Facebook Pages. Participating companies can choose to take check-ins or actions within Facebook apps, and feature them in the column on the right side of the newsfeed. Your offhand comment about the mocha now is a sponsored ad for Mega Mocha World.
The brand information is already in the newsfeed, but Sponsored Stories allows the brand to be more visible. “It’s about taking the word of mouth recommendations and endorsements that are happening across Facebook every day and increasing the distribution of those,” says Jim Squires, a product marketing lead at Facebook.
According to the recent Adweek article, Sponsored Stories lets advertisers “provide more social context to its ads.” In other words, most people buy the things that their friends buy. You see someone enjoying a cool drink with a zippy new name, you wonder about it, your friend says it’s like your favorite drink—but better—and next thing you know, you’re trying it out, too. People love to share their opinion, which explains re-tweets, Likes/Dislikes, comments, etc.
But how you feel about this new Facebook app depends on whether you’re an advertiser or consumer.
The Sunny Side of Sponsored Stories
Advertisers will like that they get the opportunity to involve people who are already interacting with the brand. Consumers place heavy importance on their friends’ recommendations, according to a Nielsen/Facebook Report “The Value of Social Media Ad Impressions.” So, advertisers love positive word of mouth, and Sponsored Stories is an online version of that.
“For advertisers, I can only imagine that this would significantly improve their click-through rates,” says Zach Welch of Brand Glue and presenter of a Take 10 webcast about Facebook. “Let’s say you check in at Olive Garden or @ mention it in a post. I don’t have to click through, go to the page, then decide to like it. Now, with one click of the mouse, I can like the page without leaving my newsfeed. Plus, Olive Garden would be coming at me from a slightly different angle. They wouldn’t be saying, ‘Hey, LIKE us because our food is awesome or we’ll give you awesome deals.’ It would be ‘Hey, Zach, LIKE us because Veronica likes us.’ It naturally makes me more inclined to click on it because it doesn’t have the feel of a normal ad.”
The Stormy Side
By far, the biggest complaint is that you can’t opt out, according to the Sponsored Stories help page. Facebook users can remove specific stories by clicking the X in the upper right side of a story and following the prompts … but they’ve already seen the ad by then.
Another concern is how Facebook users are going to feel about their status being used to promote products. Will they try to engage advertisers on purpose? Work in conjunction with them? Or will they find Sponsored Stories an intrusion? How do you feel about Sponsored Stories?