Facebook can be tricky. You get a whole bunch of people liking your page and content, but this can easily end up buried in their friends’ feeds.
To give companies a way around this (and, of course, to make some money), Facebook created sponsored stories. These are a nice addition for existing Facebook advertisers as well, as they can often lead to a lower cost-per-click.
Sponsored Stories Basics
Sponsored stories are a type of Facebook Ad. If you’re unfamiliar with running ads on Facebook, check out my guide to Facebook Ads (written before Sponsored Stories existed).
Regular Facebook Ads already include a social element, indicating if ad viewers’ friends have liked your page. Sponsored Stories takes this a step further, with most ad types focusing on actions that have been taken by people on your page, website, or posts. They primarily appear in Facebook’s right sidebar.
Types of Sponsored Stories
There are 7 types of sponsored stories – I’ll cover the 5 most relevant to small businesses (the other two are focused on apps & games):
Page Like Story
Page Like Stories let people know that one of their friends liked your page. They help encourage more page likes. The stories look like this:
Page Post Story
Page post stories are used to let people who have liked your page know that you have a new post, making sure that a higher % of your fans see your posts, and increasing the odds of it being re-shared or liked. Here’s an example:
Page Post Like Story
When someone likes a post on your Facebook Page, Page Post Like Stories inform their friends that your post was liked. You need to be receiving a fair number of post likes to get any real traction with these, but they can be a great way to encourage further re-liking and sharing. This is a Page Post Like Story:
If your business is a Facebook Place, you can promote check-ins. Friends of anyone who checked-in at your location will see that this was done. Check-In Stories also help Facebook monetize their free Facebooks Deals, as you can highlight deal redemptions in the same manner as check-ins.
When someone likes, shares from, or links to your website, you can highlight this in their friends’ feeds with Domain Stories. These display a link to your site along with links to share or comment/like the page – here’s an example:
Getting Started With Sponsored Stories
Creating The Story
To get started using sponsored stories, visit the Facebook Ads Dashboard. Click the green “Create an Ad” button in the top right corner. You’ll see something like this:
For Page Post, Page Like, and Page Post Like stories, you need to select your Page or Place under “Destination.” For the option to do a Check-In story, it will need to be a Place. Then under type choose “Sponsored Stories” and you’ll see all the options.
To create a Domain Story, you’ll need to have claimed your domain with Facebook. Instructions are available here, under “Claiming a Domain”. Claiming your domain will make it show up in the “Destination” box when creating an ad. It will also give you access to Facebook Insights for your Domain, which has interesting info about how people are sharing things from your website.
One nice thing about Sponsored Stories is that you don’t have to design the ad – once you’ve selected your ad type, the ad is automatically generated by Facebook.
Targeting the Story
Sponsored Stories are automatically targeted to those eligible to receive them (people liking your page, or the friends of people liking/sharing your content).
You can further narrow the automatic targeting. Local businesses will probably want to restrict the geographic scope, but beyond that, be careful – small companies often have a limited number of likes, and it’s easy to restrict down to the point of showing very few impressions. Watch the “Estimated Reach” box on the right side of the screen.
You can read my general Facebook Ads guide for more details on targeting.
The first tip for budgeting, like any online advertising, is set a daily budget you can afford, in case you mistakenly target the entire planet. Beyond that, clicks for sponsored stories should be reasonably priced, because the social aspect encourages interaction (and click pricing is based on the click-through rate of your ads). Again, check out my full guide for more details.
Sponsored Stories Tips
- Sponsored Stories are only going to work for you if people are already interacting with your brand on Facebook. If no one likes your stuff, there are no stories to show.
- If there is not a lot of activity with your pages, you may want to run a sponsored story for a few days, turn it off when the click through rate starts to fall, then run it again a bit later. You may be showing the same ad repeatedly to a small group of people, and the click through rates will naturally decline over time. Once you’ve had some new posts & likes, this viewer fatigue will be gone.
- Sponsored Stories generally work best for consumer campaigns. People connect more with friends than business associates on Facebook, and the stories get high click-through rates if your product is something a liker’s friends will like. For instance, if you provide a business VoIP service – someone may really like you, but the odds are his Facebook friends will not show the interest they will in his liking a restaurant, movie, or even plumber that their buddy thought was great.
Facebook Sponsored Stories lend a unique twist to the Facebook Ads platform. For the right type of business, in particular those that are widely popular among a particular demographic, they can turbocharge a Facebook campaign at a very reasonable cost.
If you have customers liking your business online, I recommend giving Sponsored Stories a try to provide an artificial boost to your word-of-mouth marketing.