Facebook Tests Engagement Ads for Charities That Repurpose User Actions and Content

Facebook appears to be working with a number of charities to test a new type of home page engagement ad which shows actions taken by a users friends, including links shared through Facebook Connect websites, as well as Page Likes and in-app actions. The ads for apps or Facebook Connect sites show a friend’s name, a profile picture mini-thumbnail, the link they shared, a description if they added one, and the name of the entity which controls the link’s destination. These ads could allow companies to expand the reach of already compelling social recommendations of their content.

These new action ads join existing social engagement ads for applications, Pages, and Events. Facebook Ads for Applications, which show which of a user’s friends have used the advertised app in the past month, launched in September. Ads which show social context — a user’s friends who Like the advertised  entity — received their own metrics in Facebook’s performance advertising analytics in September as well.

Opposed to showing a message concocted by the app, Page, or site admin, the new ads repurpose content which has already appeared on Facebook in the form of news feed stories or activity stories on the wall. The ads require an existing audience, but can leverage the trust users have in their friends to increase click through rates.

So far we’ve seen these ads running for actions taken in the Causes app, for Likes of the Page for music education charity Silicon Valley Rocks!, and for sharing to Facebook of donations to men’s cancer charity Connect site Movember. This last one is especially interesting, as users don’t need to have installed an app or given any permissions, but when they share using a “Post to Facebook” button after donating to Movember, the post is published via the “Movember Connect Application”. This means Movember.com has effectively been given a form of Instant Personalization. Facebook has provided special privileges to non-profits in past, allowing Causes users to Like multiple charities simultaneously.

Engagement ads for actions users take within applications and then share with their friends offer a unique opportunity. Facebook Ads for Applications only show the names of friends who have used to app, and don’t include anything about how they’ve used the app. Seeing that a few friends are using Causes might not be that interesting, but showing what charity a friend is raising donations for could inspire users to click.

This new ad unit takes the burden of creating relevant content off of advertisers, and instead utilizes a user’s content which is inherently relevant to their network. Instead of having to write special headlines or copy for an advertisement for Causes targeted to 40-60 year old women, these engagement ads would automatically show that one of these women’s friends has donated to a breast cancer charity. Similarly, the Movember ads include the context a user entered when they shared the link. This means the Movember ads display slang, vocabulary, or colloquialisms familiar with those that see it, drawing more attention than general ad copy.

Application and Open Graph site admins should be eager to see these action engagement ads rolled out further. They allow advertisers to not only take advantage of social recommendations and trust, but language and behavior that resonate with their targets.