Facebook’s new Timeline for Pages wasn’t the only announcement the social networking giant made at its first marketing conference in New York on Wednesday (Feb. 29).
After Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg and vp of product Chris Cox welcomed the approximately 900 marketers to the event, Mike Hoefflinger, director of global business marketing, took the stage to unveil the company’s newest advertising products. But, he emphasized, they’re not just about advertising, but storytelling.
The definition of advertising, he said, is to call attention to something, but the definition of storytelling is narration. “Ads are good,” he continued. “But stories, it turns out, are better.”
In addition to letting brands express their stories through the newly designed Timeline for Pages, Facebook unveiled several more vehicles for promotional storytelling, including a handful of new ad placements as well as a new deal-driven marketing offering dubbed Offers.
Starting immediately, Premium ads and Sponsored Stories can now appear in mobile News Feeds (in addition to desktop News Feeds). And, beginning in April, Facebook will start showing ads on the log-out page (which the company said is seen by 105 million people every month).
Offers, which can be distributed to desktop and mobile News Feeds, will allow brands to promote coupons through posts to their pages. Consumers can elect to save these offers via their own email accounts or mobile devices. Or they can opt to share a marketer's Offers coupons through their own News Feeds.
The new advertising products are now more closely aligned to what brands post on their official Facebook Pages and will essentially phase out older premium ad products (although Facebook's direct response-oriented banner ads will remain).
Facebook also shared a new algorithmically powered distribution product, called the Reach Generator, which helps brands amplify the reach of their messages.
While the company said that Facebook users see an average of just 16 percent of the content in their News Feeds, the Reach Generator ensures that brand posts reach at least 50 percent of their fans weekly and 75 percent monthly.
While Pages and Offers are free, the company said that for the Reach Generator, it would charge brands a fixed fee based on the number of fans that it has.
“[We’re] taking the stories that brands want to tell and dramatically increasing the distribution,” said David Fischer, vp of business and marketing partnerships.
Some brands have already begun testing Reach Generator. For example, Ben & Jerry’s was able to reach 98 percent of its fans, double total engagement and increase sales at a three to one ROI, Facebook said. Reach Generator also helped Dr Pepper reach 83 percent of its fan base on a monthly basis and increased the “people talking about” stat by 140 percent.
The first step to using the Reach Generator, Hoefflinger said, is understanding the kinds of content that are most engaging to fans.
“Is it seals? Is it puppies?” he asked. “These are the questions of our time.”
Ian Schafer, CEO and founder of Deep Focus, told Adweek that he doesn’t think most marketers realize that fans ignoring a brand’s post is a problem. “There is blindness to that," he said.
But the tool could be especially powerful considering that, according to Facebook, fans are twice as valuable as the general Facebook population when it comes to purchase behavior.
Clara Shih, CEO of Hearsay Social, said Facebook’s new products could have an especially powerful effect for local advertising as they offer enhanced opportunities for engagement.
She also added that the brands that will find the most success are those that really invest in timely and relevant content.
“The whole layout is about transience,” she said. “Facebook is challenging every brand marketer to continually stay fresh.”