If you’ve been using the Sponsored Stories ad format to promote stuff on Facebook, you only have until April 9 to keep using it. Facebook announced in a blog post that it would be discontinuing the notorious ad format in a move to help streamline their ad offerings. According to Facebook:
* Page post and page like ads already automatically have the best social context (likes and comments) added. You may choose to add share social context by specifying social_prefs=[‘allow_shares’] on the adgroup. Existing page post and page like sponsored stories will continue to deliver so you must support fetching them.
* Domain and open graph sponsored stories will no longer be allowed to be created. Existing domain and open graph sponsored stories will cease to have delivery after April 9th.
This shouldn’t come as a surprise as the social network has been making its intentions to eliminate Sponsored Stories known since June. Facebook says:
Last year, we announced some changes to simplify Facebook ads, including eliminating different types of ads that had the same purpose and making our ads look more consistent. We also announced that marketers will no longer be able to purchase sponsored stories separately; instead, social context – stories about social actions your friends have taken, such as liking a page or checking in to a restaurant – is now eligible to appear next to all ads shown to friends on Facebook.
This week, we gave notice to our ad partners that this change relating to sponsored stories will start in the first quarter of this year so they can update their tools and continue supporting the marketers they work with.
Sponsored Stories converted quite well as an ad format, however many users found them to be quite creepy. If you need a refresher on what they are, Search Engine Watch explains that:
Sponsored stories are the ads that appear within your news stream when someone you’re friends with likes a Facebook brand or business page. The owner of that brand or business has paid to highlight that like, in the hopes that you might click like or click through to the page as well.
So if you checked in at McDonald’s or liked their Facebook page, advertisers could pay to highlight this action to your friends in hopes of eliciting engagement from them as well. However, because it didn’t ask for your explicit permission before doing so, it got Facebook in a bunch of trouble where it got slapped with a class action suit. According to Search Engine Watch:
Facebook was targeted with a class-action lawsuit over the fact they never obtained consent from users to use their names and profile pictures in relation with the sponsored stories. Facebook settled the case for $10 million.
Some of you might be thinking that Facebook is eliminating Sponsored Stories to avoid any future legal troubles. However, $10 million isn’t exactly a lot of money for the social giant. Instead, it is very much likely that the overhaul to the ad formats being offered is to make things easier for marketers. Also, Sponsored Stories aren’t exactly going away. Wired says:
Facebook had also previously required advertisers to choose between inserting ads in users’ news feeds strictly by paying Facebook or by paying Facebook and generating social context, such as a ‘Like’ from a friend. If advertisers opted for the social option, their ad would show up as a ‘Sponsored Story,’ so that when friends ‘Liked’ and commented on the ad, those ‘Likes’ and comments would stick around for a long time in other people’s News Feeds.
Now, Facebook will bundle both options together, so that every ad is automatically retrofitted with a social component. Each ad, in other words, will be both a regular ad and a ‘Sponsored Story.’