The most compelling argument against Facebook’s long-term future viability is its inability to efficiently monetize its enormous traffic thus far. With nearly a billion users, Facebook is the most impressive online growth story of the 21st century. In spite of this monumental success, their ad revenues and overall profits are less than stellar when compared to rivals like Amazon and Google. Up until now, Facebook hasn’t really “gotten into the game” as far as directing ads at their customers is concerned. That’s about to change, thanks to a little known feature known as Sponsored Stories that’s shaking up the Facebook ad landscape.
What are Sponsored Stories?
One of Facebook’s newer and more lucrative marketing products, Sponsored Stories are a way to advertise to consumers by using social data to more narrowly target demographics. When a person Likes a particular Page, that activity pops up in the news feeds of their friends. Sponsored Stories allows advertisers to promote their brand by keeping that activity in the news feeds in a prominent manner for a longer period of time. In spite of an ongoing class action lawsuit directed at Facebook by a group of users in California, Sponsored Stories looks to be the perfect answer to Facebook’s lackluster ad sales in the future.
The Fine Print: How Sponsored Stories Drive Traffic
Sponsored Stories are a new form of social marketing based on the idea that you and your friends are more likely to be interested in the same products than a couple of people selected at random. To make Sponsored Stories work for your brand, you’ll need to treat it like any other PPC tool. Advertisers are charged based on the number of impressions they get, as measured by eyeballs that end up on Sponsored Stories. Facebook employs a tiered pricing model that’s based on the number of impressions you’re guaranteed to attract over the course of the campaign.
How to Leverage Them For the Best Outcome
There are actually 7 types of Sponsored Stories you can use. Sponsored Stories can be based on a user liking your Page, sharing a post or interacting with an app. When creating a Sponsored Story, start off with a minimal budget so you don’t waste a lot of money before you know what works. They can cost you upwards of $100 a day depending on your campaign parameters, so start out slow. Also, focus on Page crafting captivating content rather than just discounts and coupons. Using gamification to make your Page interactive is the best strategy.
The Primary Benefits & Caveats
In reality, most advertising falls on deaf ears. The biggest advantage of Sponsored Stories is that they’re a crackerjack way to funnel traffic to your desired Facebook Pages in a wholly natural and unobtrusive manner. They’re a slow-burn version of AdWords that manages to improve Click-Through Rates by zeroing in on receptive audiences. As such, it’s a non-aggressive promotional technique that leverages the organic content from the news feeds to “suggest” rather than “push” a brand or product. Just remember that Sponsored Stories can be tricky to master, so you’ll need to keep a close eye on analytics throughout the process to gauge your returns.
The Future of Marketing on Facebook
Unlike Google, Facebook isn’t expected to be a purely commercial venture that’s focused on cold hard statistics and ROIs. The very nature of the platform revolves around sharing with friends, colleagues and loved ones. If Facebook pushes too hard on the monetization front, they risk alienating their base and sending them fleeing into the arms of a less intrusive Google+ or even a Diaspora. So far, it seems they’ve struck a healthy balance between commerce and communication with Sponsored Stories. Now’s the time to become an expert at this emerging marketing technique, as it’ll become increasingly important in the coming years.
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