Paddy Power sponsored story on Facebook

Facebook to remove Sponsored Stories ad format (but it’s not all bad news for Page owners)

Sponsored Stories will no longer exist as a standalone ad format in Facebook’s ad arsenal come April. Instead the advertising giant will bring the “social context” element found in Sponsored Stories to all of its other ad formats later this year.

Facebook announced on Thursday last that it would remove Sponsored Stories as a standalone ad format on April 9. Sponsored Stories is the only ad format on Facebook that marketers don’t have to create content for. Sponsored Stories, as Facebook describes them, are “messages coming from friends about them engaging with a Page, app or event that a business, organization or individual has paid to highlight”. So if a Facebook users Likes your brand’s Facebook Page, you can pay Facebook to highlight this interaction to the user’s friends, either in the News Feed or right side ad section. It’s a social endorsement of your brand and, for most Page owners, is an ad format that converts well.

Facebook originally launched Sponsored Stories in January 2011 to some controversy. Controversy that ended in Facebook paying out $20 million in a class action lawsuit last year as it was deemed unlawful for Facebook to turn brand Page Likes into commercial endorsements without prior approval from users.

With Facebook set to migrate the “social context” element of Sponsored Stories to all other ad formats this year, Sponsored Stories will become redundant. This is good news for Page owners and marketers who will soon be able to use friend endorsements, like Page Likes and business check-ins, across all of Facebook’s ad products.

Facebook’s decision to remove Sponsored Stories may also be an attempt to make content from brands more relevant in users’ News Feeds. Currently brands do not have to create additional content to generate a Sponsored Story. So by removing this option and essentially forcing brands to produce good ad content, Facebook hopes to keep the News Feed relevant and interesting for its users where brand content is concerned.

With higher click-through rates, good content is also good for advertisers, helping drive the cost of advertising on Facebook down. Advertising on Facebook is cheaper when users find your content interesting.

Darren McCarra

Darren is co-founder and editor of the InBusiness blog. He also co-founded the award-winning Irish technology blog, The Sociable, and works in digital marketing for small businesses. You can follow him on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.

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