Facebook's Sponsored Stories walk a fine line

Ronny Kerr · January 27, 2011 · Short URL: https://vator.tv/n/1663

It's brilliant, yet invasive: the newest and most creative marketing product from any social network

Promoted Tweets? Oh, Twitter, you could learn something from your social networking big brother.
Facebook is introducing a totally new marketing tool called “Sponsored Stories,” a genius product that perfectly melds friends’ stories with a brand’s desire for attention. It was quietly announced on the Facebook Marketing Solutions page via a video in which several of the company’s engineers explain the motivation for the new product and reveal a few details of how it will work.
Basically, the idea is that people already draw recommendations (directly and indirectly) from their family and friends about where to go and what to buy. If you see in the News Feed that one of your friends checked in to Starbucks, perhaps you’ll be more likely to visit the coffee chain in the future. The problem, from a marketer’s perspective, is that these stories often get buried in a deluge of posts from other users.
Sponsored Stories sidesteps this problem by allowing marketers to sponsor actions that favor their brand. For example, Starbucks could pay to have a percentage of check-ins to its business featured in the right-hand site of Facebook’s site, in the space where advertising is already displayed. Besides check-ins, brands can sponsor page likes and posts and actions in business-specific applications.
Here’s an example of a check-in turned into a Sponsored Story:

As a preemptive move to keep privacy advocates at bay, Facebook says your posts will only show up in Sponsored Stories seen by your friends.
Launch partners for this product include Coke, Levi’s, Anheuser Busch and Playfish.
I jabbed at Twitter to begin this piece because, while Sponsored Stories at first seems quite similar to Promoted Tweets, I give loads more creative credit to the former for seamlessly transforming social stories into an advertisement. Promoted Tweets, tweets from brands that appear at the top of relevant searches, are still, at the end of the day, ads completely created by that brand. Sponsored Stories, on the other hand, draw their power from being entirely user-generated.
Actually, it’s almost a little creepy. Should users be turned off?
Despite Facebook’s effort to cram as many good feelings as possible into the two minute video introducing Sponsored Stories, the fact remains that the new marketing product comes down to inserting a user’s activity and/or words into an advertisement for a business or brand. I’ve contacted Facebook to find out whether users can opt-out of the product, but have not yet heard back.
By the way, are users getting a cut of this advertising deal? Or is the joy of using Facebook our only payment? Maybe I’m getting ahead of myself. Sponsored Stories is brilliant from a marketing perspective, but it’s certainly treading a fine line.


source for images: Mashable.

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