Facebook Ads vs. Sponsored Stories

by Keri Honea on November 10, 2011

Sponsored Story on Facebook

Example of a Sponsored Story

If you’ve logged into Facebook once, you’ve seen the ads in the right sidebar. They’re downright impossible to avoid, much like search engine ads, which is why they are one of the most appealing new forms of online marketing.

In addition, the ads are far less expensive than search engine ads, and they have a potential of hitting more of your targeted audience than search engine ads.

However, did you know that Facebook offers another form of marketing for businesses called “Sponsored Stories“?

What are Sponsored Stories?

From Facebook’s help center, they describe Sponsored Stories as

stories that are eligible to appear in your News Feed. These show up on the right-hand column of pages on Facebook. The types of stories that can be surfaced include: Page likes, Page posts, Page post likes, check-ins, app shares, apps used and games played, and domain stories.

In other words, any time a fan writes something on your business page or uses Facebook to check into your establishment, you can actually turn that into a real ad a/k/a a Sponsored Story.

Why Use a Sponsored Story?

Ads are often more appealing because they are something that we, as online marketers, can greatly control. We decide the content, we decide what it looks like, etc. If it doesn’t work for whatever reason, we can tweak it and see how the tweaks changed the results. With Sponsored Stories, this isn’t the case.

Once you choose your type of Sponsored Story, you can set your bids, demographics, etc., like you would a Facebook ad, but you cannot touch anything else in this type of ad. If there’s a misspelling, you have to leave it. You can’t pick just one sentence from a fan’s post. It’s all of it or none of it. So yes, this severely limits what you can choose to represent your business, but there are several advantages to Sponsored Stories as well.

Personal Product Recommendations

The biggest advantage is that Sponsored Stories show off a real, word-of-mouth endorsement from a real customer who is someone’s friend on Facebook. It’s been proven time and time again that people are far more likely to purchase a product or choose a service if one of their friends recommends it. Look at your business page. Do you have any posts that thank you for your service, endorse a product, or show that someone has checked into your place of business numerous times? The writers of those posts have friends who will take far more notice of an ad that mentions one of their friends than they will an ad created for the masses.

For example, my co-worker, Brittany Horton, knows more about photography and photography equipment than I could ever hope to. If I log into Facebook and see a Sponsored Story that quotes HER recommending a certain camera lens brand over another, you better believe that I’m going to seriously look into that brand for my own hobby. Not only that, but I’ll recommend it to my brother-in-law and his photography friends. It’s hard to ask for better PR than that.

Stories Tailored to Several Sets of Demographics at Once

Obviously, if you’re going to use a Sponsored Story, you aren’t going to want to have the ad appear to people who don’t know the person giving the endorsement, and Facebook is well aware of this fact. So, these Sponsored Stories will only appear in the right sidebars–where the ads go–to people who have the fellow endorser in their News Feed. In using the example above, since Brittany is my friend on Facebook and her posts appear in my News Feed, if a company uses one of her posts/likes/check-ins as a Sponsored Story, I will see it in the sidebar, but my husband, who is not friends with her on Facebook, will not. Therefore, it’s not a wasted impression, and it won’t put him off the point that he’s annoyed by the advertiser.

As a result, this presents a more customized ad campaign than an advertiser could get on any other online marketing service.

Should I Use Sponsored Stories and Forego Ads Entirely?

Absolutely not.

Sponsored Stories only achieve two purposes: to get more likes (users can like the business straight from the Sponsored Story) and drive more traffic to your business page. Sponsored Stories will not drive users to your website; at least, they won’t directly do so. Visitors to your page may go to your site, but this particular web analytic is difficult to accurately track without particular (and pricey) software.

Therefore, it’s best to set up Sponsored Stories in conjunction with regular ads, unless your brand is so vastly known–such as Starbucks–that you really don’t need the brand awareness that ads offer.

We’re quite the pros when it comes to Facebook marketing, so if you need assistance in setting up your marketing campaign, contact us! We’d be more than happy to help. If you have other questions about Facebook and/or its marketing, feel free to leave a comment below.

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