January 14, 2014 Insights, News & Events

Facebook Sponsored Stories are Dead. Long Live Sponsored Stories! A Perspective from SocialFlow

With apologies for the pun, many in the world of social media are atwitter with news that Facebook is discontinuing Sponsored Stories. We’d like to offer our perspective on this change, and the occasionally overwrought coverage that has accompanied it.

On balance we believe that these changes are quite positive for the Facebook advertising ecosystem:  they simplify Facebook’s ad offerings and eliminate some underperforming types of ad units, while preserving the core “social context” elements that were essential to the Sponsored Story units.

What is Facebook Doing?

To explain what’s happening with Sponsored Stories, we should first start with an image of a Page Like Sponsored Story (one of the more common types of Sponsored Stories):

And although there are many variants of the Sponsored Story, the key element in each is the endorsement of my Facebook friends, which in the above image is at the top, and indicates which of my friends like this particular page:

The gray boxes don’t pop very well in this image, but imagine that those are your friends.  Further, imagine their thumbnail photo is also above the page, and you get the power of the Sponsored Story.  This is the ultimate word of mouth endorsement, and is generically referred to as “Social context”.

What Remains

Facebook announced in early 2013 that it would be working to simplify their ad product offerings.  Part of that simplification was to take the “social context” element of sponsored stories and incorporate that into other ad units.  Almost one year later and now having done that, Facebook can now retire the actual Sponsored Stories without losing anything of substance in the process.

There are currently 10 Sponsored Story types. Five will be absorbed into ad units eligible for “Social Context,” and five will be discontinued entirely.  The five Sponsored Stories that will be absorbed into new ad units are as follows:

Sponsored Story Name

Equivalent New Ad Unit

Page Like Sponsored Story

Post Like Sponsored Story

Page Post Comment Sponsored Story

Page Post Share Sponsored Story

Event Sponsored Story

Page Like Ad

Post Like Ad

Page Post Comment Ad

Page Post Share Ad

Event Ad

So even though these five Sponsored Story types technically go away, the effect of the sponsored story largely remains.

What is Being Taken Away

The following five Sponsored Stories have no equivalent new Ad Unit:

  • Domain Sponsored Story

  • Open Graph Sponsored Story

  • Check-In Sponsored Story

  • Game Played Sponsored Story

  • App Shared Sponsored Story

This means you won’t see sponsored content when friends post items from Amazon URLS, listen to songs on Spotify, check-in at Denny’s, play Farmville, or share their feelings on a specific app.  With no disrespect intended to those domains, destinations, games, and apps, it’s hard to view this as much of a loss to the Facebook advertising ecosystem.  Any advertiser who used one of these Sponsored Stories can pretty readily take advantage of the social context in one of the remaining ad units.

Impact to SocialFlow Customers

SocialFlow uses Sponsored Stories as part of its Forte product.  Our customers know that they can achieve great social media success by:

  1. increasing the frequency at which high-quality content is published;

  2. optimizing that content so that the right message is delivered at the right time; and,

  3. using paid amplification to sponsor stories that perform well.

SocialFlow’s platform does not use any of the Sponsored Story functionality which is being removed, and our customers will notice absolutely no difference in functionality or level of engagement when these changes take place.

Conclusion

You will still be able to use the endorsement of friends in advertisements promoting Facebook pages, like Facebook posts, comments on page posts, share posts, or events.

We’ve seen quite a bit of confusion around this announcement, with some misleading headlines to accompany it. But the net net of this news is that the most powerful functionality associated with Sponsored Stories is simply being transitioned into a different ad unit.

This change by Facebook is good for advertisers as it simplifies advertising products while driving better results.

Jim Anderson is the CEO of SocialFlow.

Questions or Comments?

Feel free to comment on our post below, or contact us at sarah@socialflow.com.

Written by Jim Anderson
Jim has more than 20 years experience developing, productizing and selling both B2B and B2C technology solutions. Previously, Jim was COO of Vitrue, where he was instrumental in building the team, products and customer relationships that led to the acquisition by Oracle.