Facebook plans to sunset its Sponsored Stories ad offering in April, per an announcement on its Developers blog earlier this week.
Sponsored Stories are those ads that feature friends’ interactions with Sponsored Pages, such as Likes, comments and check-ins. The product, while successful, has seen its share of controversy since launching in 2011 – culminating with a class action lawsuit settled last August.
The removal of Sponsored Stories is part of Facebook’s broader mission to streamline its ad products to less than half of the 27 that currently exist for marketers. Yet, while 13 kinds of Sponsored Stories will shutter come April 9, Facebook will continue to include social context in existing ads, where eligible.
For example, if an advertiser promotes a photo post and ‘User A’ has not yet opted out of social context being shown to friends in their privacy settings, ‘User B’ will still see that ‘User A’ has interacted with the brand’s ad.
Previously, advertisers could run ad types with – and without – social context, comparing the two to determine the value of word-of-mouth marketing. With the impending changes, all advertisers will be automatically opted into social context if users’ friends have engaged with the Page.
This leads to the question of whether or not Facebook will alter their reporting to show an ads’ success with – and without – social context. If reporting does not differentiate between the two, marketers should consider their targeting strategies as a top priority to ensure success for their ads.
One of the more noticeable changes for advertisers will be the disappearance of the popular Sponsored Story Like ad. This ad type has been favored by many marketers as one of the most successful opportunities for driving fan growth on Facebook. Social context will appear next to a Page Like Ad if the ad is eligible, but there is no longer a guarantee that this will be the case.
As Sponsored Story Like ads go away, it will become more crucial than ever for advertisers to ensure that their creative assets have a strong call-to-action for users to “Like” their brand and content when running fan acquisition campaigns. Brands will still be able to target friends of fans in hopes of increasing the chance of social context appearing alongside their ads.
Come April, advertisers will have fewer options to choose from when it comes to ad types, and users will have the power to decide if they want their interactions with brands on the platform shared with their friends. The changes come as a result of Facebook’s initiative to simplify their product offering in hopes that it will help marketers optimize their ad buys, and in turn help them to drive better results at a lower price.
The sunset of Sponsored Stories will be significant for brand marketers, as they will now need to devise new strategies to make up for previously high-performing ad types that will no longer exist. Engagement will continue to be important as actions such as Liking, commenting and checking in will be needed for Facebook to provide social context around a marketers’ ads on the platform.
Jennifer Wormington, Senior Media Manager at 360i, contributed to this report.
Cover photo via Wired