Facebook’s new App Ticker that is displayed on the games Canvas page and lists news of friends engaging with games will also show abbreviated versions of Sponsored Stories, Facebook’s social ad unit. Sponsored Stories bought by advertisers are now eligible to inform users about the app their friends use from within the App Ticker as well as from their regular spot in Facebook’s ads sidebar. This is currently the only way that ads are mixed into any of Facebook’s content streams
This additional placement of Sponsored Stories will improve the ability of advertisers to reach gamers, which could be especially useful for developers looking to gain new users. However, to make the ticker’s sponsored app discovery stories as appealing as possible, Facebook will need to show them about friends that users trust as wise, active gamers.
Reaching the Right Audience
Facebook released Sponsored Stories in January as a new way for advertisers to serve highly relevant ads promoting their Facebook properties. The ads show which of a user’s friends have recently Liked a Page or Page’s updates, used an app or game, or shared content from a Facebook-integrated website, amplifying the reach of what were news feed stories.
Until the launch of the App Ticker earlier this month, Sponsored Stories only appeared in the ads sidebar to users browsing Facebook. Now, gamers will see entries in their App Ticker marked “Sponsored”. These are in fact the same Sponsored Stories, albeit in a condensed format that just shows the name and face of a user’s friend and the title of an app or game they’ve used, but no image of the app or game. Sponsored Stories about Pages and websites may also appear in the App Ticker, though we’ve only seen ones about apps and games so far.
Previously, developers could try to gain new gamers through App Used, Game Played, and App Share Sponsored Stories, but these would be shown to all users including those who rarely or never played games. They could target Sponsored Stories about one of their apps to users of another app they controlled, but otherwise trying to reach gamers was less predictable.
With placement in a new channel that only reaches gamers, these types of Sponsored Stories are now more likely to reach their intended audience and drive installs from users with better monetization potential down the line.
Promoting Usage of Trusted Gamers
Inexperienced gamers might be lured to try out a new app just because any of their friends have installed it. However, developers are trying to draw hardcore social gamers with the most monetization potential. These users know which of their friends are actually active players that can be relied upon to accept requests and cooperate in games, in other words which friends’ implicit game recommendations through Sponsored Stories can be trusted.
Therefore, Facebook may need to refine its targeting and display algorithms for App Ticker Sponsored Stories so that game usage of these trusted gamer friends is more frequently displayed. These might not necessarily be a user’s closest friends with regards to social signals such as Likes of each other’s news feed posts or tags in the same photos. Instead the App Ticker Sponsored Stories should highlight friends who accept a user’s game requests, frequently interact in-game through gifting, visiting, and competitive activities, and play the most games.
Along with determining what friends have Sponsored Stories about them appear in the ticker, these algorithm tweaks could determine which friend’s photo is displayed in Sponsored Stories when the names of multiple friends that have used an app are listed.
If Facebook can surface trusted gamers in App Ticker Sponsored Stories, developers buying them will see better performance. This could make the ticker an important paid growth channel in addition to driving free, organic growth, leading developers to spend more on the social ad unit.
AJ Glasser contributed to this article.
Walk-throughs and strategies for using Facebook’s Sponsored Stories ad unit can be found in the Facebook Marketing Bible, Inside Network’s comprehensive guide to marketing and advertising through Facebook.