As Facebook swells with over 500 million users worldwide, marketers and companies stare longingly at the site, hoping to turn its super social clout into an exercise in brand recognition. Previously limited to fan pages and paid ads, Facebook announced today its "sponsored stories" feature.
Sponsored stories are a new realm of purchased ads broken into four categories: page likes and check-ins, and actions called "application play" and "page posts."
Previously, users could "like" any page and it would appear in the newsfeed as a text link.
For example, my friends would see "Lydia Leavitt likes TGDaily.com."
The new feature couples likes and check-ins on Facebook places with a company logo and link to its FB page within the newsfeed.
So, say Starbucks purchases a sponsored story and someone checks into Starbucks using Facebook Places - the Starbucks logo will appear next to the check-in and within freinds newsfeeds.
This is an interesting direction as far as social branding goes, and will probably grab the interest of many major brands right off the bat.
Think of it this way, if your friend recommends a certain coffee place or restaurant, you’re much more likely to try it. This is the same thinking behind sponsored stories. When a sponsored link appears, it will appear with your name, the company logo, and within your friends' newsfeeds.
Another option, "application play," is a feature designed for companies who have an app. If for example someone uses the Coca Cola app to upload a photo, it will say "John Doe uploaded a photo using the Coke app." Exactly the way Twitter does it, except companies will have to pay Facebook for this feature.
A "page post" is designed to spread page story links around FB. Basically like existing Facebook ads, page posts will appear in on the right-hand side but the new features allows them within the newsfeed itself.
But before you freak out about your newsfeed being littered with sponsored stories or "page posts," keep in mind that you will be able to filter what you don’t want in your newsfeed.
Users can also control who sees their newsfeed. Sadly, you won’t be able to stop your check-in from becoming a Facebook ad complete with company logo. Keep in mind, if you feel the urge to check into Facebook Places but would like to say "I hate this friggin’ place," that is certainly an option. I suppose that’s why Facbeook integrated a "flag" button for "inappropriate content."
The sponsor storied feature should be available to the masses in the next couple of weeks and some major brands like Coke and Levi's are already on board.
Michael Lazerow, CEO of Facebook commented on the new feature, "Anything that lets brands amplify social action or word-of-mouth is a great thing. This product lets brands further leverage their investment in Facebook and make it louder, amplified and more noticed - which, ultimately, is a great option."
Let’s see how the masses react as Facebook moves more into the realm of e-commerce and brand amplification via the social network.