My First Facebook Campaign – Part 3: Sponsored Stories

This is the latest post in my Facebook advertising series.

Today’s post focuses on another form of Facebook advertising that I tried over the past few weeks: Sponsored Stories.

What is a sponsored story?

A sponsored story is any photo or text post that one pays for in order to receive more views and engagements (i.e., clicks, likes, etc.).

Sponsored stories appear in individuals’ main Facebook newsfeeds, so they are able to see them on any device.

How to make a sponsored story

Creating a sponsored story is very easy. Simply post your message or photo, as always. Then, click on “boost post” immediately under the post.

To create a sponsored post, click "boost post."

To create a sponsored post, click “boost post.”

After that, a pop-up screen opens, giving the user several options, including:

  • Targeting an audience (followers, general public, geographic location, age)
  • Setting a budget
  • Choosing a payment option
Several budgetary and targeting options are available on sponsored postings.

Several budgetary and targeting options are available on sponsored postings.

Guidelines

Facebook has some strict guidelines about sponsored stories. Basically, they prefer the posts to be images that have very limited text on them (no more than 20%). They literally lay a grid on your photo and, if text appears on more than 20% of the image, they will reject the sponsored story. My first two posts were rejected before I figured that out: the first, because I overlooked that rule (see the first image below); the second, because their verification grid picked up my logo as text (see the second image below).

This sponsored story was rejected because it contained text in more than 20% of the image.

This sponsored story was rejected because it contained text in more than 20% of the image.

This ad was rejected because Facebook's tool picked up more than 20% text on the image.

This ad was rejected because Facebook’s tool picked up more than 20% text on the image.

I actually complained to Facebook about their finding on the second image, asking them if their tool is supposed to pick up the logo. They responded by sending me the image I posted below (with the verification grid overlay) and told me that the logo was not picked up in the grid–which seems to be incorrect. Either I am missing something, or the Facebook representative did not even look at the grid on the image that she sent to me.

This image was rejected because Facebook's verification tool detected that text covered more than 20% of the image.

The Facebook representative said that the grid verification tool did not interpret the logo as text; however, the image itself seems to say otherwise.

Finally, I managed to make a few posts that were approved as sponsored stories, such as the one below (to advertise our summer language program to teens):

This post was approved as a sponsored story.

This post was approved as a sponsored story.

Pros & cons

PRO: Visibility

I found that sponsored stories had great results in terms of visibility. Since they appear in the main newsfeed of the users’ Facebook page, they are visible on any type of device and can be seen very quickly by a large number of people.

Sponsored stories can reach a large number of people in a short period of time.

Sponsored stories can reach a large number of people in a short period of time.

Of course, this reach also means that one can burn through his/her budget very quickly with sponsored stories.

PRO: Increase “likes” of your page

The large number of views spawned more interest in our page (as monitored by the number of new “likes” that corresponded with the distribution of our sponsored stories). I was very happy about that, as these users will now see all content that is posted on our site, which–hopefully–will keep my institution on their minds when they think about the possibility of studying English abroad.

PRO & CON: Requires monitoring

These sponsored stories require regular monitoring, which I consider to be both good and bad.

Just like any post, users who can see it are able to comment on it. This was fantastic, as I was able to answer questions and address any concerns that anyone had. I was happy to see that the posts engendered some sincere interest in our program and, with my French skills, I was able to respond to comments in a language and on a medium that are used by these individuals. Of course, this means that the comments had to be monitored regularly via my own Facebook account so that I could respond within a reasonable time frame.

On the downside, these sponsored stories also reach individuals who may use them as platforms to make themselves visible to a larger audience–and for the wrong reasons. For example, a few of the users posted comments about things that I did not want to have associated with my institution or our program (such as comments about items they were smoking). These comments remain posted until they are either hidden or deleted–so, it is important to review posts frequently to monitor the content.

CON: Less-specific audience targeting

Though it is possible to target your sponsored stories to people within specific age groups who live in a certain geographical area, this is the only level of targeting that is available for this type of advertising. For example, I was able to boost the post shown above so that it would be visible to target older teenagers in France and Canada; however, I was not able to target people via specific keywords or interests, nor was I able to specifically target a state or province (like Quebec).

Sponsored stories: Yay or Nay?

Overall, I was happy with the sponsored stories. I thought that the high visibility and the way that they drive traffic to our Facebook page were worth the cons listed above. They are quick and easy to do, and I was even able to add some text and links in the form of a comment beneath the photo to give users some additional information about our program and to drive the traffic to our website. This is certainly a form of advertising that I will be using again.

What’s next?

Now that I have been advertising on Facebook for one month, I am happy to say that I have already had some successes! I will write about that in my next post, which will wrap up my series about my first Facebook campaigns.

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