Facebook Now Allows Advertisers to Use Tracking Tags and Promote Old Page Posts with Sponsored Stories

Advertisers can now use tracking tags with several of Facebook’s Sponsored Stories types, allowing them to clearly measure how much traffic the social ad units are driving to their Pages and applications for the first time. A new field called “Optional URL Tags” now appears in the self-serve ad tool, allowing advertisers to append tags that can be tracked with third-party analytics tools. This helps advertisers determine which clicks to their properties came from Sponsored Stories, and more specifically from specific campaigns, targeting parameters, and ad creative.

Facebook has also increased the flexibility of Page Post Sponsored Stories such that advertisers can buy additional traffic for any of their Page’s posts, not just the most recently published update. These changes will make it easier for advertisers to determine the value of Sponsored Stories and integrate the ad unit with their existing Facebook Page publishing strategy. This could attract more ad dollars to Facebook’s unique way of amplifying word of mouth.

Tracking Tags Increase the Utility of Sponsored Stories

A Facebook Help Center page confirms the introduction of “Optional URL Tags” which was originally named “Optional Tracking URL”. The name was likely changed because advertisers enter just their tags, not the whole URL, and because Facebook may be weary of the privacy implications of the word “tracking”. The Help Center page explains that “Previously, for Sponsored Stories leading to Apps or to content off Facebook, it was difficult to distinguish whether clicks coming to your App or website were from a Sponsored Story or News Feed story.”

Tracking tags can now be appended to Domain Stories for amplifying shares of off-site content, App Share Stories for amplifying shares from within Facebook apps, App Used or Game Played Stories for promoting usage of apps on Facebook, and Page Post Stories for driving traffic to news feed updates by Pages. Advertisers could tag their ads to indicate their Sponsored Story type, geographic or demographic targeting, what Page post they promoted, their bid, or what campaign the ad belonged to.

Facebook doesn’t offer any tracking or analytics software, but these tags can be recognized by third-party advertising software to show the source of a click and identify trends in performance. For example, by tagging their ads with what age group their Sponsored Story ads are targeted to, advertisers could view what age groups responded best across campaigns.

Ads API partners will be able to append tags to their ads and feed the tracking data into their sophisticated targeting and bid management systems to improve the efficiency of Sponsored Stories campaigns run through their tools and services. This in turn help advertisers drive cheaper, more qualified clicks through Sponsored Stories. With both self-serve and Ads API advertisers able to use Sponsored Stories more effectively, the Facebook could see the social ad unit become a tool powerful enough to attract new advertisers and shift spend of existing advertisers to ad types only it offers.

Page Post Sponsored Stories No Longer Interrupt Publishing Schedules

All of Facebook’s Sponsored Stories are triggered by a user action such as clicking a Like button, except for one — Page Post Sponsored Stories. To make its social ad units easier to explain Facebook has reclassified Page Post ads in a “Sponsored Page Post” subcategory within traditional Facebook Ads rather than as a Sponsored Story.

It has also corrected the biggest problem with the ad unit. Previously, Pages could only sponsor their most recent Page post, meaning if they couldn’t publish any new updates if they wanted to buy traffic for an especially important post. Rather than ceasing to publish to the news feed for a sustained amount of time, this likely limited Pages to short Page Post ad campaigns, or dissuaded them from using the ad unit at all.

Now, as first spotted by Justin Oh, Facebook has added a “Page Post Selection” option the self-serve tool’s builder for Page Post ads. Advertisers can choose from a list of their Page’s recent posts or enter a specific “Custom Post ID” number that can be found at the end of URL of its timestamp. To automatically promote their Page’s latest post the same way the ad unit previously worked, advertisers can select “Most Recent Eligible Post”.

With this new tool, a Page could pay for ad units promoting a story about a big product release, announcement, contest, or application while continuing to publish posts that are less critical to drive traffic to, such as photos or messages of thanks. It also allows Pages to run multiple simultaneous Page Post ad campaigns for different posts. This will allow a brand’s advertising and Page management teams to work more independently rather than wasting time coordinating pauses to the Page’s publishing schedule.

Page Post Selection also unlocks opportunities for marketing campaigns that reward users or unlock content when a Page post gains a certain number of Likes or comments. For example, a Page could publish an update saying it will give away 50% off discount coupons for a day when the post reaches 5,000 Likes. If the post doesn’t reach the milestone organically through news feed exposure, the Page could buy Sponsored Page Post ads until it received 5,000 Likes rather than have the campaign appear to have failed.

In the same vein as the new Timeline profile redesign allows users to make their most important life moments more visible, Page Post Selection for Sponsored Stories will let brands amplify the reach of their most important or compelling content. As Facebook typically strives for a consistent browsing experience across the site, Timeline could be coming to Pages, which would fit well with the enhanced flexibility of Sponsored Page Posts.

For now, though, brands will be able to pay not only to drive traffic to their Pages, but to any post they’ve published that could aid their business.

Walk-throughs and strategies for using Sponsored Stories to grow your business are available in the Facebook Marketing Bible, Inside Network’s comprehensive guide to marketing and advertising through Facebook.