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Facebook Sponsored Stories: You're Writing Ads ... and You Didn't Even Know It

by Verónica Jarski  |  
January 28, 2011

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?

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Veronica Jarski is the Opinions editor and a senior writer at MarketingProfs. She can be reached at

Twitter: @Veronica_Jarski

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  • by Paul Barsch Fri Jan 28, 2011 via blog

    Veronica, enjoyed this and thanks for bringing this content to my attention. Facebook users may complain, but there really is no such thing as a free lunch. I also believe that this is just the beginning for behavioral targeting!

  • by Veronica Maria Jarski Mon Jan 31, 2011 via blog


    Exactly. Facebook users would do well to remember that Facebook really is a business, not a philanthropic endeavor! Thanks for taking the time to comment.

  • by Angela Giles Tue Feb 1, 2011 via blog

    It's exactly as you say Veronica. Facebok is a business, and as such, we can't help but explore all factors that could be advantageous to us internet marketers.
    -Angela Giles
    Social Media and Publicity DIVA

    ***Yes, I'm giving away the 3rd edition of my Twitter Blueprint for FREE! No strings attached.

  • by Mark "Chief Alchemist" Simchock Tue Feb 1, 2011 via blog

    Privacy issues aside, a couple things come to mind:

    1) Is "I Like That Too" the same as a standard "Like"? Will those "fans" perform the same over time? Does FB provide the necessary data to do that analysis?

    2) Does making it easier to "Like" increase or decrease the value and meaning of that Like?

    All that said (and pardon me for repeating myself), it continues to be overlooked by brands that the Like isn't about you, it's about the Liker. Sure, that does indicate some level of engagement and involvement. But ultimately people are using the Like to define them, not stroke you. Likes are certainly nice but it would seem that the more ubiquitous they get, the less meaning they have. Does a person with 1,000 Likes really like you? Does a person with only five Love you, or maybe they're just not a heavy FB user?

    A Like is a click, it's not a commitment. It's hard to bet the farm on a measurement with no context (i.e., there's no disLike). I believe this a subtle but important difference that isn't often mentioned, let alone discussed.

  • by attorney Kamal Fri Feb 4, 2011 via blog

    Sponsored Stories is a fantastic idea. I would love the ability to use organic positive customer comments to advertise my business. Users reaction will probably cut both ways...though I think it will lean towards intrusion. There will be a portion of people who try to get their lines used in advertiser promotion. This may be the best new way to get into a career in advertising. Ultimately, the number of annoyed users who leave fb is quite finite. The company faces little downside to this new tool.

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