The most valuable piece of real estate on Facebook is the News Feed. CEO Mark Zuckerberg acknowledged as much during the company’s most recent earnings call. But for a brand to stake a claim in the News Feed, a user must either be a fan of its Facebook Page or be friends with someone who is a fan and did something like comment on the brand’s Page. But soon Facebook will make it easier for brands to pop up in the News Feed. The company plans to begin testing the ability for brands to promote Page posts to non-fans within the desktop and mobile News Feeds, said Facebook spokesperson Annie Ta.
“These ads will look like other Page post ads in News Feed and be labeled as sponsored. We think this will make it easier for businesses to reach more people. This is a small test, and we're constantly gathering feedback from people on how to improve our ad experience,” Ta said. If and when Facebook were to roll this out officially, advertisers would be able to target these promoted Posts using the standard options such as interests, age, and desktop or mobile.
Until earlier this year, Facebook has been hesitant about bringing ads to the News Feed. Then it began showing Sponsored Stories in the News Feed in January. That product now brings the company nearly $1 million a day in revenue, said Zuckerberg during the earnings call. He also said the company has limited the number of Sponsored Stories populating the News Feed to protect the stream’s quality and plans to increase the percentage of ads that are social, which he said perform better than standard display ads. Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg said at the time that fewer than half of the ads on Facebook are social.
But this latest test would be a departure from that push since the sponsored Page posts wouldn't have to feature social context such as whether a friend liked or commented on the post. Instead how they are served would be more akin to a traditional display ad. This beta test isn’t the only one Facebook has in the works that would let marketers advertise without social context. Last week the company announced that it is testing the ability for mobile app developers to advertise in users’ mobile News Feeds.