Facebook Introduces ‘Paid Social’ With Sponsored Stories

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facebook_small.jpgADOTAS – I’m a little surprised Twitter didn’t introduce something like Facebook’s new Sponsored Stories ad unit first — I bet you CEO Dick Costolo has got all his monkeys working on that right now. It’s a bit similar to Promoted Tweets but Sponsored Stories allow advertisers to promote relevant items from a user’s newsfeed — that is, activities by friends.

A brand can transport an activity from one of your friends (such as a check-in to a retailer through Facebook places or a share from a publisher’s site) into the righthand ad column, basically highlighting it. Advertisers will also be able to procure application usage on brand pages.

Normal privacy settings apply, so a friend who does not receive your updates will not get ads with your information, and a friend not included in your news feed will not appear in your Sponsored Stories. Sponsored stories will include the original users’ comment attached with the activity, so others will be able to flag negative brand references — for example, if someone re-posts an article with the comment, “This is the dumbest thing I’ve ever read.”

According to a video from Facebook, initial case studies showed improvements in brand lift, ad recall, and likeliness to recommend to a friend.

“Anything that lets brands amplify social action or word-of-mouth is a great thing,” BuddyMedia CEO Mike Lazerow commented. “This product lets brands further leverage their investment in Facebook and make it louder, amplified and more noticed — which, ultimately, is a great option.”

I’ve already seen some criticism suggesting users will be further alienated by Facebook relegating their news feeds for advertisements, but these promoted activities are pretty non-invasive — you may have already viewed the activity in your news feed, you many have missed it, but it’s not really annoying. It’s similar to Facebook recommendation spots (“39 of your friends like The Smiths”) — call it the social network equivalent of SEM, or maybe “paid social.”

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