Facebook tests page post ads in News Feed to reach users beyond fans and friends

Facebook is testing a News Feed version of its page post ad format, which will allow advertisers to reach a broader audience than their own fans and friends of fans, a company spokesperson tells us.

This ad unit will look just like a post from a page that a user is a fan of, except it will include a “Like Page” button in the top right corner and the word “sponsored” at the bottom, according to a screenshot provided by Facebook. Previously, a page could only advertise in News Feed if users already Liked it or if they had a friend who did. This latest test, along with the mobile app ad unit announced last week, show Facebook is no longer limiting News Feed inventory to entities that users have already connected to.

Early tests of Sponsored Stories in the feed show much higher clickthrough rates than ads in the sidebar. However, because these ads don’t necessarily have social context, they could confuse or frustrate users. Facebook says News Feed page post ads are a very small test for now, and the social network will gauge performance and user sentiment to determine whether this will roll out wider.

Facebook experimented with ads in News Feed as early as 2006, when users who joined sponsored groups would be notified when friends interacted with the same page. When Beacon launched in 2007, Facebook also gave advertisers the option to put messages in the feed. When the company introduced News Feed Sponsored Stories earlier this year, it seemed to be taking a more conservative approach by only allowing brands to sponsor content that could otherwise appear in their feeds organically.

Advertisers, however, want to reach new audiences and they want their ads to be as effective as possible. News Feed page post ads could be ideal for advertisers as long as they don’t turn off users who look to their News Feed for updates from family and friends, not brands. At the same time, Twitter’s Promoted Tweets model inserts brand content into the feed without requiring a user to be connected to an advertiser in any way, and the company does not seem to have suffered any backlash.