Facebook’s Expanded Premium Ad Unit Combines Page Post Content with Convincing Social Context

Last night Facebook made two announcements just before the start of New York Ad Week, the launch of new earned media Insights which we discussed in-depth this morning, and a new “expanded Premium ad unit” that can appear larger than typical ads on the home page.

Expanded Premium ads turn an update published by a Page to the news feed into an ad, and append social context about friends who Like that Page to the top of the unit. It thereby combines what were previously two separate ad types — Page Like Sponsored Stories and Sponsored Page Post ads — creating a taller, more compelling ad unit that includes the trusted recommendation of a friend that can be targeted to any Facebook user.

Advertisers will no longer have to choose between promoting their Page with an ad that had little of its own content, and amplifying the reach of a compelling Page post without showing social context. These ads could become a powerful tool for Pages looking to gain fans, as Facebook’s studies show social context makes viewers 68% more likely to recall an ad, twice as likely to remember its message, and four times as likely to make a purchase.

Page Like Sponsored Stories currently allow Pages to pay for more exposure for the news feed story triggered when someone Likes there Page. However, these ads are essentially just social content– they have no content of their own and sometimes seem boring. By allowing advertisers to include an important Page post along with the Page Like social context, expanded Premium ads are more compelling. Viewers will also get a taste of what they’ll see in their news if they follow the implicit recommendation of their friend and Like the Page.

Facebook launched Sponsored Stories to amplify the reach of user generated mentions of brands. However, there was one Sponsored Story type, the Page Post story, that didn’t require user action. Instead, it let Pages buy additional impressions from fans for news feed posts by their Page.

Earlier this month, Facebook reclassified Page Post Sponsored Stories as “Sponsored Page Posts”, a new subcategory of traditional Facebook ads, and began letting advertisers target them to any Facebook user, not just existing fans. While compelling in their own right if the advertiser picks an interesting Page post to promote, they often include no implicit trusted recommendation from a friend that says “I Liked this Page, maybe you should too” via social context.

Now with expanded Premium ads, these Sponsored Page Post ads are automatically augmented with Page Like social context if any of a viewer’s friends have Liked that advertised Page. This makes them a better driver of new Likes than either Page Like Sponsored Stories or Sponsored Page Post ads.

Facebook has solved some the biggest problems of two of its most powerful ad products. For now expanded Premium ads will only be available to top advertisers through Facebook’s direct sales team. With time, though, Facebook may be able to improve the balance between content and social context in its self-serve ad products.