You've probably heard rumblings of it over the past few weeks, and like it or not, the time has finally come: Facebook is now featuring paid advertisements in users' News Feeds.
Yes, right in between photos of your cousin's new baby and your college roommate's update about burning his toast again this morning (lol, am I right?!), you could now see an ad from a company that paid to have it featured in your News Feed. These ads are officially being called "Featured Stories."
But it's not just any company's Featured Stories that can show up in a user's Facebook News Feed; there are two major caveats for placement.
1.) A user will see Featured Stories from brands they have already 'Liked' on Facebook.
2.) Users will also see Featured Stories from brands their friends have liked, even if they haven't liked the brand themselves.
(Therefore, a user will only see Featured Stories from brands they or their friends have Liked.)
The content of a Featured Story can be anything from an update you post on your company Facebook page, to someone liking your page, to someone checking in with you or using your app. If you want to pay for any post or behavior to appear as a Featured Story in News Feeds, you can do so. Users will know they're looking at a Featured Story because, as you see below courtesy of ZDNet, they are marked with the word "Featured." An explanation of what that means appears when a user hovers over the word. However, unless people are staring at their News Feed all day, Facebook anticipates the average user to only see one ad per day.
The social world is in the middle of a battle between free, ad-driven services, and paid, ad-free service. It's unclear which way consumers and the industry are going to lean, but the biggest marketing takeaway in the interim is that we all have to know our audience. Are your fans likely to be turned off by this interruption in their News Feed? Will it cause them to unlike your Facebook page?
I predict this update will be received like most Facebook updates: Users will be up in arms for about a week, and then Featured Stories will settle into the norms of day to day Facebooking. So if you're worried about fan backlash from experimenting with Featured Stories, just wait a short time until the hoopla dies down. After all, Featured Stories gives you the opportunity to get in front of your fans' friends. So even if a few fans unlike your page in the beginning, you're still benefitting from ever-expanding reach as your fan base grows over time.
If you decide to pay for Featured Stories, the most important thing you can do is ensure your content is valuable. If you're choosing to not only interrupt your fans, but to pay to do so, it should be with something so awesome -- remarkable content, a valuable coupon or discount, etc. -- that your fans would regret missing out on.
Finally, make sure you're really, really likeable -- both in the Facebook sense, and as a brand. If your foray into Featured Stories turns out to be a bust, it's crucial that your brand and its Facebook page be likeable enough for your fans to forgive you the misstep. Keep your page content entertaining and useful to ensure you don't suffer a barrage of unlikes from your current fans, or suffer alienating your fans' friends in the process of testing out a new ad tool. But if your Featured Stories are interesting and don't add to the clutter of the News Feed, you shouldn't experience tidal waves of unlikes.
As a marketer, are you excited for Featured Stories in users' news feeds, and will you be experimenting with it? As a Facebook user, do you feel differently?
Image credit: birgerking