Facebook has significantly expanded the prominence of Sponsored Stories in News Feed with a new “Page Like” unit that includes the page’s profile image and thumbnails of more friends who are connected to the page.
Previously, “Page Like” Sponsored Stories were very subtle in News Feed and many users were likely to skip over them. The new version is larger and shows additional context that might make users more likely to click the ad, such as a description of the business and more friends who Like the page. The social network also changed the wording on these posts from “Featured” to “Promoted” so that it is more explicit that companies are paying for this content to appear in the feed.
This is a “Page Like” Sponsored Story from February:
Here is a full size image of the “Page Like” Sponsored Story we saw today:
Even though Sponsored Stories are now eligible to be displayed on mobile devices, we did not see the Target ad on the mobile site or the iOS app. It is worth noting that the item was the top story in News Feed even though it was an hour old when we accessed the site. As of press time, dozens of stories appear above it, but we can scroll down and find it in the feed. This is different from traditional Facebook ads that change with each page load.
The main image included in the story is the page’s profile photo. Advertisers cannot select another image to appear here.
Interestingly, Facebook added a “Find More Pages” link to Sponsored Stories. This takes users to the page discovery browser, which presents other pages users might be interested in. It seems adding this link to the Sponsored Story is Facebook’s attempt to make the story more useful and less ad-like.
Unpaid “Page Like” stories continue to appear in the feed, though perhaps less frequently than in past years as the number of other stories (check-ins, song listens, etc.) increases. See an example of an organic “Page Like” story below:
[Update 3/27/12 2:27 p.m. PT – A Facebook spokesperson says the change is not only in effect for Sponsored Stories. All “Page Like” stories, whether sponsored or organic, will now look like the Target story above, she says. We have not yet seen any live examples in our feed.]