Facebook’s “Comment” Sponsored Story Ad Unit Engages Users With Questions

Facebook has released its eighth Sponsored Story ad unit. Called “Comment”, it draws from a Facebook Page’s posts to generate a display ad that poses a question beneath the ad’s content, inviting users to give their opinion or participate in a conversation. If users leave a comment, it can become visible to their friends as both a Sponsored Story and as a news feed story — the latter driving earned views and clicks of a brand’s content at no additional cost.

The Comment Sponsored Story was the result of a challenge Facebook posed to ad agencies to suggest a new way for brands to engage users, as AdAge covers. The ad’s low barrier to participation and subsequent free exposure in the news feed means it has great potential to provide a high return on investment.

Comment will be the first Sponsored Story not found in the self-serve ad took, and will instead only be available to those with premium advertising accounts, according to the article. To use it, brands will work with a Facebook rep to take a question asked in one of their Page updates, and display that within a text field in the Sponsored Story. When users comment, their friends may see that comment just above the ad’s content, or as a separate news feed story, allowing them to join the conversation.

By displaying interesting photos, videos, or text and inviting users to answer a funny question or share a personal anecdote, brands can augment their Comment ads with content that will be highly relevant to the participant’s friends who will see it. In this way, brands get users to generate more compelling ads from the ground up than they could possibly from the top down.

Launch partners for the ad unit include Allstate Insurance and Hallmark. For example, Allstate Insurance will run Comment Sponsored Stories that display a humorous video about kids wrecking a car’s interior, and ask users what was the worst thing their kid has done to a car.

Earned Views Boost ROI

Facebook launched its social ad unit Sponsored Stories in January to allow brands and app developers to increase the reach of news feed stories about Likes of their Pages, shares through their apps, checkins to their Places, and their own Page updates by displaying them as ads as well. In April, Facebook launched three more Sponsored Stories types that promote user Likes of Page updates, Likes on third-party websites, and usage of apps and games.

Pre-launch tests by Facebook indicated Sponsored Stories led to brand lift and increased ad recall, engagement, and likeliness to recommended a brand or app to friends. Independent tests by third-party Ads API service provider TBG Digital indicate Sponsored Stories have a 46% higher click through rate, a 20% lower cost per click, and an 18% lower cost per fan than Facebook’s standard ad units.

Comment will give brands with premium advertising accounts more flexibility in how they use Sponsored Stories. Rather than placing a call to comment in the body of the ad with a Page Post Sponsored Story and hope users click the small feedback button to reveal the comment text field, the Comment Sponsored Story makes the text field persistently visible and fills it with the call to comment.

Sponsored Stories leverages the strength of Facebook’s enormous audience and usage to offer advertisers bonus earned exposure on top of their paid clicks. With brands concentrating on their social media ROI, Sponsored Stories could lead them to shift spend away from search, off-site display, or event TV to Facebook where they might get news feed exposure and two clicks for each click they pay for.