As Facebook builds its ads business and gives advertisers more ways to reach different audiences, a new lexicon has emerged.
The social network has invented terms like Sponsored Stories, Page Post Ads and Promoted Posts, but it doesn’t always explain them or maintain consistent usage over time, especially since the same ads serve different levels of advertisers, who purchase them through varying channels.
Here we’ll break down the main categories of Facebook ads that appear in News Feed and the desktop sidebar: Sponsored Stories, Page Post Ads, Promoted Posts and Marketplace Ads. Understand the difference in what the units look like, how they are purchased, who they can be shown to and what goals they achieve.
Sponsored Stories are built around user activity. Advertisers simply pay to highlight an action that users have already taken on the social network or within a Facebook-connected app. That action is shown to a user’s friends, either in the sidebar or in News Feed. Sponsored Stories cannot be used to reach an audience that is not connected to the page or app through a friend.
Advertisers do not have any creative control over these ad types because they are generated from an organic user action. They might also include a page or app’s current profile photo.
The most common Sponsored Stories are “Page Like” stories, but advertisers can sponsor check-ins, offer claims, Likes on individual posts, or any custom Open Graph action. For example, Doritos has sponsored stories about when users “vote for a finalist” in its Crash the Super Bowl app.
Companies can also sponsor stories about when users share links from their domain. For example, when a user posts an Amazon link on Facebook, Amazon pays to show that story to more of a user’s friends, as seen to the right.
The goal of Sponsored Stories to get more users to take the same action that a friend has. If a page wants Likes, it can show Page Like Sponsored Stories. If a retailer wants more users to claim an offer, it can show Offer Claimed Sponsored Stories. If a company wants more sweepstakes entries in its custom Open Graph app, it can create Sponsored Stories about users “entering a sweepstakes.”
Most Sponsored Stories can be created through the self-serve ad tool, Power Editor or API, however, Open Graph Sponsored Stories require advertisers to work with a third-party provider that has access to the API.
Sponsored Stories have been around since January 2011, but when Facebook first began using the term, it also encompassed what later became known as Page Post Ads. The change has led to some lingering confusion, but ads that are directly derived from page posts are no longer considered Sponsored Stories. We’ll discuss Page Post Ads in the next section. The defining factor of Sponsored Stories to remember is that they are paid promotion of organic user activity.
Page Post Ads
Page Post Ads are advertisements that begin as posts on a fan page but get additional paid distribution among fans, friends of fans, or non fans within News Feed or the sidebar, as a result of creating campaigns in Facebook’s ad tool, Power Editor or API.
Page Post Ads can be links, photos, videos, offers, events, questions or statuses, allowing for a lot of creative freedom. And unlike Sponsored Stories and Promoted Posts, these ads can be shown to anyone on Facebook, even if users are not connected to the page themselves or through a friend.
Page Post Ads are ideal for engagement and content marketing, as well as promoting events and offers, but they are not always as effective for fan acquisition. For example, a Page Post Ad might give users the option to play a video, like the video, comment on it and share it, in addition to the option to Like the page itself. This is different from Sponsored Stories, which give users one clear call to action.
Facebook no longer uses the exact term “page post ads” in its self-serve ad interface, though it continues to use it in educational materials and the more advanced Power Editor tool. Within the self-serve dashboard, the company has rebuilt the ad creation flow to focus on objectives rather than specific terms that less experienced advertisers might not be familiar with. Instead of asking advertisers to “create a Page Post Ad,” for example, it suggests that page owners “Promote page posts.” This action creates a Page Post Ad.
Promoted Posts are page posts that get additional paid reach in News Feed among fans and friends of fans as a result of using the page’s Promote button.
Promoted Posts are similar to Page Post Ads because they originate as a piece of content on a page, but they are bought through the Promote button on a post itself rather than through the ad tool, Power Editor or API. The pricing structure is different as well. With Promoted Posts, page owners pay a flat rate to reach a given number of users. For Sponsored Stories, Page Post Ads and other Facebook ad types, advertisers pay per impression or per click.
Another difference between Promoted Posts and Page Post Ads is that Promoted Posts are only shown to a page’s existing fans, with an option to reach friends of fans as well. Page Post Ads have more flexibility in that they can reach non-fans or only friends of fans. Promoted Posts also do not have allow for interest- or category-based targeting, which other Facebook ad types do.
The goal of these ads is to reach more of a company’s existing audience and some of their friends. These help get a page’s content seen but generally do not drive new Likes.
Promoted Posts are shown exclusively in News Feed, both on desktop and mobile, whereas Sponsored Stories and Page Post Ads can be run in the sidebar.
Marketplace Ads are desktop sidebar advertisements, which include a headline, body copy and image. These ads can lead to a page or app on Facebook, as well as to third-party websites. Marketplace Ads are the only ads eligible for Facebook Exchange retargeting inventory.
Marketplace Ads that aren’t bought through the Facebook Exchange can include a call to action, such as a Like button or Use Now button, as well as social context about how many users Like a page or use an app.
We saw Facebook testing “Page Like” Marketplace Ads in News Feed last year, and these are now beginning to appear in the mobile web feed.