Facebook to Drop Sponsored Stories in April 2014

If you’re not aware about Sponsored Stories, then to simplify things for you – these are ad like updates shown when a user’s Facebook friend interacts with a sponsored Page, App or Event.

They will appear in your Facebook News Feed because a business or individual has paid to highlight them in the hope that there’s more of a chance others will see them and click ‘Like through to the Page as well.

However – it has been known to many, that marketers and Facebook users have had a love-hate relationship with Facebook’s Sponsored Stories. Proving to be a source of confusion for the marketers (who want to get as much out of their advertising budgets as possible – and a source of annoyance for News Feed noise.

Facebook has announced in a blog post that they plan to put an end to Sponsored Stories altogether – so if you’re looking to purchase a Sponsored Story then you better do it fast – because by April 9th 2014, this feature will be completely removed!

What will this Mean for Marketers? What is the Next Step?

The company confirmed that they were planning to drop Sponsored Stories back in June 2013 – however it wasn’t until recently that we have an official date for when they will disappear from the site altogether (April 9th 2014).

Currently it’s not that clear as to what will replace Sponsored Stories – however what we can tell you is that the existing Sponsored Stories will transition into the ad format “Social Context.”  What ‘social context’ means is that – if your friends like something, then it may get shown to you too on the assumption that you also may like it.  The ‘social’ element of ‘social context’.

The removal of Sponsored Stories only changes the way these ads are delivered to Facebook users, not the fact that the information can be collected and used. A key difference with Social Context ads however, is that they will appear in the right hand sidebar, rather than directly in your News Feed.

So rather than have your News Feed bombarded with ads – the Social Context ads will run in the usual right hand bar where we have become used to seeing  all Facebook’s advertisements.

Social Context will be offered as an option to advertisers alongside other advertising options. With Social Context, Facebook will continue to gather information on users and deliver that information back to those users in the form of ads.

Here’s what Facebook announced in June:

“Wee’re bringing the best of sponsored stories — social context — to all ads. Since this update makes sponsored stories redundant, we will no longer offer them as a stand-alone ad unit for marketers. Social context will continue to appear with all ads where eligible. Our social advertising honors the audience that people choose, so nobody will see information in social context for an ad that they couldn’t already see.”

See the diagram below to see how this should work:

facebook image for blog

As you can see, social media advertising is a constantly-shifting medium, especially as the industry is always growing. So the best thing that you can do is try to keep up with these changes and learn how to stretch each pound as far as possible.

Tip: Don’t give up -Facebook is known to be one of the best ways to reach a large number of customers all at once.

Twitter Update – Custom Timelines

For a while now in my training courses, I have been sharing my enthusiasm for Twitter Lists and the ability to ‘Favourite’ – a tweet.

Lists enable you the Twitter user to categorise the people you are following in whichever way makes sense to you.

Whilst the Favourite function on Twitter enables you to effectively ‘archive’ – selected tweets.

You can then share your Favourite link with others – however, Twitter doesn’t allow you to make several ‘Favourite’ lists – just the one.

However, just a couple of weeks ago Twitter introduced Custom Timelines.

Effectively, this function enables you to aggregate any tweets you like into a ‘list format’ – it’s almost a hybrid of Favouriting and Lists. As you can create a public ‘Timeline’ – it has its own URL, description – however, you aggregate the content that goes into it. And you can embed the timeline onto webpages.

The great thing about this function is that it gives you more control over how you want your tweets to be organised, whilst also offering some creative alternatives to simply posting regular tweets and watching them quickly disappear into the swirling current of handles and hashtags.

The only downfall appears to be is that you can only use it on the TweetDeck application – once you’ve come to terms with how TweetDeck works – the rest is very simple.

Adding tweets to these custom timelines can either be done by hand or by the API. When doing it by hand all you have to do is select the tweets you want from the different column in your dashboards e.g. interactions, mentions, lists or any keywords etc.

What you do with each of these timelines after – is entirely up to you!

Custom timelines are perfect for:

  • Capturing any customer testimonials or praise on Twitter and embedding them on your homepage or relevant web page.
  • Showcasing an event you / your business is promoting.

The best thing about Twitter timeline however, is that it increases the lifespan of your tweets! Having separate timeline – your tweet won’t get buried nearly as fast.

There are many ways you can leverage this new feature – and we’ll be keeping you updated with examples and other ideas in the future. However at the moment it seems that you can only create your custom timelines through the social media dashboard – TweetDeck.

This exciting new development from Twitter will really help Twitter to cross over from being a heavily mobile newsfeed – connecting people to the information they want – to being a web service – enabling organisations to leverage the news going on over on Twitter into web pages.

This blog post was brought to you by Michelle Carvill, founder of Carvill Creative, the online visibility experts and author of The Business of Being Social – A Practical Guide to Harnessing the Power of Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and LinkedIn for all Businesses.

Up to 55 Amazon reviews for The Business of Being Social

We’re really thrilled to see that The Business of Being Social now has 55 reviews on Amazon – with 40 of those five-star. Reviews are the lifeblood of books and while we are proud of the book, it’s great to see that others agree with us.

We thought we’d post the latest review by Hugo Minney in full as it neatly sums up what this social media book is all about. Take it away Hugo:

This book is about making money, not wasting it.

It would be easy to spend pages and pages explaining what tweeting is, and how much fun it is. It would be easy to jump straight in at the “How” (as in, “this is HOW you do it”), forgetting that a busy business doesn’t really want to spend any time at all on something that costs but doesn’t deliver a return. So this book doesn’t do that.

It starts with a foundation – this is what businesses do, and this is what they should do, and most importantly, this is what they can expect to get back (WHY social marketing).

Then it goes on to explain, step by step, WHAT social marketing is. The undercurrent is that humans have communicated and carried out commerce for years – well hundreds of thousands of years actually – and it’s only been in the last 2-3 hundred years that we’ve tried to rely on push marketing or loud posters selling snake oil.

If you can’t necessarily prove the benefits of marketing this way, that’s probably because it’s difficult to prove. Social marketing, with all of this modern technology, is a return to old-fashioned conversation and commerce, which is why it caught on so quickly and is proving so successful.

With the foundations in place, Carville (sic) and Taylor can explain HOW to do social marketing. And they point out that it’s very much like a good old-fashioned conversation. In a conversation, you won’t make friends or influence people if you simply race in and start shouting.

The rules (for success) are always the same – decide what you want, listen to find a group of people who seem like the right crowd, converse to build relationships (usually by agreeing with the people closest to your point of view), and then, and only then, have you won the right to tell them about whatever you are selling.

Carville (sic) & Taylor repeat this again and again – don’t start posting or tweeting, decide what your objective is. Lots of companies don’t know what their aim is, so they are remarkably accurate at getting it. Your objective is probably to sell more product to this target client base. OK where do you find the client base?

Are they on twitter with a hashtag that they tend to watch and chat under (a hashtag seems to be a little like a chat room – a marker that you can search for to follow conversations about a particular subject). Are they on facebook, or linkedin, or Google, or somewhere else? You don’t want to waste time building relationships with people who, no matter how much they like you, simply have no use for your product. Find your potential clients, and build the relationship.

They discuss the characteristics of the different media – on Twitter you probably have to post every few hours, on Facebook every day or so, on LinkedIn every week, and so on. They discuss what you post – a bit of humanity, a bit of professionalism. Above all, be yourself (but not unprofessional).

They also discuss blogs and other ways to build a community, a committed group who not only will buy your products, but will tell you what else they want so you can sell it, and will tell you what’s right about your product (do more of this) and what’s wrong (put it right). A community of friends who are all friends of you.

A very useful book. Also very well written and easy to follow. One to keep on the shelf with markers in for future reference.

Click here to read all the reviews – including the less flattering ones! Thank you to all of you who have left comments – they are all appreciated!

Plan, listen, analyse BEFORE you engage

The key theme of our book is based around the notion that anyone deciding to use social media for their business must Plan, Listen and Analyse BEFORE they engage.

Business plan

Time and time again in our training courses, we encounter businesses who have rushed into setting up social media channels without first figuring out what they will be using them for, who is going to manage them and who their audience will be.

As a result, a quick glance at the social media sites for the majority of brands reveals low engagement scores, a lack of decent content and ultimately, very little meaningful results for these businesses.

Social networks like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn have developed into highly sophisticated and targeted marketing channels which require considerable amounts of time and energy to make sure they are performing correctly.

This means that for the majority of organisations, you need to be allocating some form of marketing budget to ‘feed’ these channels.

Take a look at your own social media accounts. Do you know which of your strategic business objectives are being met by these channels and can you measure their performance? Chances are the answer to both of these questions is no, in which case you should consider creating some form of social media strategy.

You’ll find more insights, frameworks and practical advice via our book,

The Business of Being Social.

Enjoy.