Big Brands Placing Holiday Bets On Facebook Domain Sponsored Stories

On Black Friday, I posted an update on Facebook with an affiliate link to Amazon’s product page for Razor scooters. Nearly two weeks later, Dec. 6, this update was still showing up in the feeds of friends, only the post had been changed slightly, with a sponsored designation. This is a prime example of Facebook’s domain sponsored stories in action.

Domain sponsored stories, introduced as an ad option last year, give an advertiser like Amazon the ability to sponsor personal updates that link to its website.

It’s no mystery that since Facebook’s initial public offering, the company has shifted its prioritization to put profits and advertising at the front of its strategy guide. While users have long been accustomed to sidebar advertising on the social network, they may be thrown off by the increasing amount of in-stream advertising. You don’t even have to have a second-degree brand connection to see suggested posts like this one in your stream now.

Should You Use Domain Sponsored Stories?

While I have yet to see many other brands use domain sponsored stories (aside from Amazon), the ad format has some interesting quirks that may persuade or dissuade you from jumping in.

Pros:

  • The ad looks more natural. It just adds mileage to an update and link that already exists, so the effectiveness is potentially higher.
  • The ad gets a long shelf life. In addition to the impression time it gets pre-sponsorship, these ad updates are being shown up to two weeks later, which means more impressions and click-throughs.
  • Facebook users are less familiar with this ad format, so the novelty may work to your advantage. Users may think their friends paid to sponsor their own updates, since this is possible now. (One of my friends thought I had done this to my own scooter update.)

Cons:

  • The biggest con is the inability to select which posts to sponsor. So you may end up paying to promote a negative or embarrassing post, drawing the wrong kind of attention.
  • The ad may be promoting a link that has lost its relevancy. In the previous example, the deal I was linking to was only good on Black Friday, so click-throughs could have left people with some sour feelings.
  • You may double-pay due to affiliate programs. In my example, when Amazon paid to sponsor my post, the affiliate link didn’t change. So essentially, it was paying double, which may be completely worth it during prime shopping season.
  • You may incur some blowback. You’re technically sponsoring somebody’s Facebook post without their permission, even though they probably agreed to some fine print somewhere. This may mean getting unwanted questions about your advertising.

At the very least, sponsored domain stories avoid some of the recent problems faced by similar Facebook ad formats, like people seeing ads tied to deceased friends. If the majority of Facebook posts about your website are positive, and there are many of them, and you want to maximize your reach, then Facebook domain sponsored stories may be just what you’ve been waiting for. (Just disregard the fact that you’ve been waiting for nothing — they’ve been around a while.)

Guest writer Scott Cowley is a marketing PhD student and social media researcher.

Main image courtesy of Shutterstock. Others courtesy of Scott Cowley.

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