Facebook Testing Suggested Page Ads in News Feed

Units aimed at a brand's non-fans

Last summer, Facebook began experimenting with running ads in the News Feed devoid of the social connections typical to its Sponsored Story units. Rather than requiring an ad only be shown to fans of a brand’s Facebook Page or their friends, marketers were able to run Page Post ads in the News Feeds of non-fans. Now it appears Facebook is dropping the Page Post inclusion and letting advertisers promote only their pages to non-fans in a sparse News Feed unit called Suggested Page.

“We’re currently testing this feature but have nothing further to share at this time,” emailed a Facebook spokesperson on Friday. Inside Facebook reported on the ad unit a few weeks ago.

The two Suggested Page ads Adweek encountered on Friday (which were found only on Facebook's desktop site) appear to be targeted using standard Facebook capabilities. In this case, one ad seemed geared toward this writer’s location near San Francisco (as stated on his Facebook profile information) and interests (as indicated by the number of surf brands whose Pages he has liked).

The ads themselves are pretty minimalist, displaying only a thumbnail of the Page’s profile picture and then a gray box with an image and some text describing the brand; in fact they mirror the organic posts that pop up in users’ feeds when a friend likes a brand’s Page. Unlike those posts, however, when users mouse over the brand’s hyperlinked name, a pop-up is displayed resembling a miniaturized version of the top of the brand’s Page, with buttons to like or message the brand.

But Suggested Pages, appended with a “Sponsored” tag, are among the least social units Facebook has on offer. The only social context they feature—confirmed by the “socialContext” tag included in the units’ code—are the number of Facebook users who have liked the advertised Page.

The Suggested Page units are likely part of Facebook’s push to attract advertisers to the News Feed, with execs emphasizing the value of in-feed ads during the company’s earnings call on Wednesday. COO Sheryl Sandberg said that 65 percent of Facebook’s advertisers are now running ads in the News Feed, up from only 50 percent at the end of the third quarter. Facebook has taken a measured approach in rolling out ads to users’ News Feed so as to not compromise the user experience, but CEO Mark Zuckerberg said during Wednesday’s call that in-feed ads only resulted in a 2 percent reduction in the amounts of likes and comments users made.