Facebook changes page post ads to increase engagement, but fan acquisition rate declines

A recent design change meant to make Facebook page post ads more effective in gaining engagement — likes, comments and shares — has reduced the format’s utility for fan acquisition, according to data from Spruce Media.

A month ago, Facebook changed the way page post ads appear to non-fans. Now instead of a call to action to Like the page, these ads promote interaction on the post itself. That’s good for content marketers and pages looking to increase engagement. But advertisers who had been using the unit to drive new page Likes will be turning to other ad formats to achieve those goals.

Spruce says a major mobile phone provider had been using page post ads, along with Sponsored Stories and page-Like ads in the right rail of Facebook.com, to build its fanbase. Before the change, page post ads made up 60 percent of the company’s paid fan acquisition traffic. Since Nov. 22 when the change went into effect, these ads have only driven 3.6 percent of paid fan acquisition.

Looking across all of its clients, Spruce says the average clickthrough rate of this placement dropped from 2.52 percent down to 0.62 percent. Conversion rate fell from 12.8 percent to 6.5 percent. The average cost per fan increased 270 percent.

Spruce VP of Ad Delivery Scott Bain says the change is a reminder that fan acquisition is only one aspect of Facebook marketing and that there are different ad types to achieve different goals. Facebook is further distinguishing page post ads as a way to increase engagement on a specific piece of content, whereas page-Like Sponsored Stories are more ideal for building a fan base.

“It’s about using the right peg for the right slot,” Bain says.

However, the change has limited the options available to marketers who want to grow their page through mobile ads. Sponsored Stories can only be shown to friends of fans, but page post ads are a way to reach users that do not have any friends connected to a page. Sometimes page post ads help companies reach more relevant audiences than Sponsored Stories, especially if the page has a small fan base. For now, if advertisers want to promote their page to non-friends of fans, they’ll likely do so through sidebar ads on Facebook.com. Otherwise, they’ll stick to page-Like Sponsored Stories.

It’s possible Facebook already has a solution in the works. We’ve heard that the company is developing a new video ad unit that could autoplay when users scroll past it in News Feed. We’ve also seen the company testing page-Like marketplace ads in the desktop feed, which don’t require a friend connection to be displayed to a user. It’s unclear whether something similar is being tested on mobile.

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