Sponsored stories can counter a decline in organic impressions, while increasing engagement rates and amplifying your word of mouth. Facebook does this by taking your existing content and fan actions, then promoting it to their friends.
Here are seven techniques for maximizing results with sponsored stories.
Scenario 1: You have a video to promote
Technique explained: The video will play in the ad itself — previously a premium feature that only big brands could afford.
Enable this by posting the YouTube link on your page with a short comment.
Then run an ad selecting “Facebook ads” as the type and “page post ad” as the story type.
To avoid wasting impressions, add in workplace targets and “friends of connection” targeting below.
Net result: You are showing video in the ad itself, and also featuring at least one of your friends.
Scenario 2: Your customers are other businesses
Technique explained: If you know the names of the actual companies you’d like to have as clients, include them in the your list of workplace targets.
But be careful to attract only decision makers. If you’d like to get the attention of Walmart executives, narrow down to folks age 25 and up who live within a 25-mile radius of Bentonville, Arkansas, or else you risk targeting employees in stores across the country.
You might want to target folks who work at the local newspaper, too, for good measure. But know that many companies aren’t big enough to show up here. If the audience is less than than 20, Facebook will not allow you to post the ad. So add in other companies to get the estimated number up. Facebook microtargeted ads are effective when you combine workplace and demographic targets.
Bonus: When you get favorable news coverage, amplify the good work with this technique. If it occurs on a website, then post that link on your wall so you can run a page post ad.
Scenario 3: Your chief executive officer wants more fans
Technique explained: Sponsored like stories show ads to friends of your existing fans. This peer pressure, otherwise known as social context, will double your ad effectiveness.
Friends want to know what their friends are doing. Facebook will show the friends of your fans that their friend is a fan.
The average Facebook user has 130 friends. So not counting overlap, if you have 10,000 fans, you can reach 1.3 million people with a message that says “Jackie likes this,” and that includes her picture. It’s an instant endorsement.
Some advertisers argue that a junk fan strategy — meaning large number of fans for pure number’s sake — helps here. In other words, even if the fans themselves are not your target customers, perhaps some of their friends are. However, the endorsement value of a fan is sometimes greater than the value of the fan itself. Yes when you have a universal product — such as consumer packaged goods — and no when you sell a business-to-business product.
Warning: The friend of fan connection targeting built into the sponsored like story ad unit certainly does give you a high click-through and low cost per fan, as users can click like right in the ad unit. But such “drive by” fans who never visit the page itself are not as valuable as those fans you nurture with other engagement strategies.
Scenario 4: Your engagement rate is low
Technique explained: The page post ad allows you to amplify any of your organic posts; you can choose a particular post, allow the system to choose the most recent one (I recommend this) or enter in the post_id (only if you’re a ninja!).
Content in the news feed used to live for a day, but now it may live for only minutes. When it slides off the news feed, you can get it back in by running this ad.
Bonus tip: ask questions, do “fill-in-the-blank” posts, and provoke emotional reactions to amplify further. Why this is powerful: Interactions driven by paid engagement still contribute to EdgeRank.
Scenario 5: You are attending a conference
Technique explained: We ran this ad while attending a recent hackathon with Facebook folks. By choosing a narrow set of interests, we were able to hit most of the folks in the audience. In fact, one of the Partner Engineers, Matt Kelly, came up to me to mention that he saw the ad.
Key takeaway: Why would you bother to buy a booth when you can run microtargeted ads for pennies? And just wait until Facebook has ads in mobile.
Scenario 6: You can’t afford a public relations agency, but want to make a splash
Technique explained: One time we got some coverage in The Wall Street Journal. We then ran a page post ad targeting fans of the Journal who have friends that are fans. Try this yourself with an ad that links to the article, and target the promotion to readers of the publication, your potential clients and even the customers o one of your competitors.
Caution: Err on the safe side and obtain permission from the publication before creating an ad that links to one of its articles.
Scenario 7: You have a local service business
Technique explained: Relevance is key, so include your city name, picture of the store, or local landmarks in the ad image. Don’t use stock art, since people will assume you’re selling health supplements or mortgage quotes, without looking further.
Keep the ads fresh by rotating them at least weekly, else they burn out. Facebook shows you a metric called frequency, which is how many times on average, a user has seen the ad.
We recommend changing the ad before it goes over a frequency of 10, unless you have a really small audience or are not so budget conscious.
Warning: If you mention Google Plus in a Facebook ad, this is what happens:
Dennis Yu has helped brands grow and measure their Facebook presences. He has spoken at Search Marketing Expo, Search Engine Strategies, Web 2.0, The American Marketing Association, PubCon, Conversational Commerce Conference, Pacific Conferences, HostingCon, Affiliate Summit, Affiliate Convention, UltraLight Startups, MIVA Merchant, and other venues. Yu has also counseled the Federal Trade Commission on privacy issues for social networks. Yu has held leadership positions at Yahoo and American Airlines. His educational background is finance and economics from Southern Methodist University and London School of Economics.