Corporate Eye

Facebook Plans to Allow Brands to Sponsor Stories from Users – Without Asking

Facebook is getting more buzz this week with a new advertising program that will enable brands to sponsor user actions.  For example, a Facebook user’s “likes,” his page posts, and his check-ins via Facebook Places could all become content that brands can sponsor.  In simplest terms, brand can pay (based on a pay-per-click or pay-per-impression model) to boost that content up to special placement on the right side of the screen where Facebook ads typically appear.

For brands, Facebook Sponsored Stories is a great opportunity.  Giving prominent placement on screen to user actions that support a brand draws attention to what can be perceived as a customer endorsement.  Research shows that conversations and endorsements of brands on social networks are trusted more than ads, so sponsored stories seem like a perfect match for brands.

However, Facebook users are likely to not feel the same way, although Facebook representatives are quick to point out that sponsored stories will only appear to people that the user has identified as being able to see those types of updates within his Facebook account settings.  There is currently no reported way for Facebook users to opt-out of the new sponsored stories initiative.

According to BrandWeek, both Coca-Cola and Starbucks are signed on to roll out Facebook Sponsored Stories campaigns, and other brands are sure to follow.

Let’s face it, sponsored posts are likely to be more effective for brands on a social network like Facebook than display or text ads are.  It’s true that people notice and respond to people they know and trust over brand messages, and research report after research report supports that.  The problem would come if this level of intrusiveness (i.e., republishing people’s content and conversations without their permission) will be considered acceptable or not to Facebook users.  If users don’t respond well to it, there is the risk that they’ll stop talking about brands altogether.  That’s the type of negative backlash that could really damage a brand’s social media and content marketing efforts.

How do you feel about Facebook Sponsored Stories from the brand’s perspective?  How about from the Facebook user’s perspective?  Leave a comment and share your thoughts.

Image: stock.xchng

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Susan Gunelius is the author of 10 marketing, social media, branding, copywriting, and technology books, and she is President & CEO of KeySplash Creative, Inc., a marketing communications company. She also owns Women on Business, an award-wining blog for business women. She is a featured columnist for and, and her marketing-related articles have appeared on websites such as,,, and more. She has over 20 years of experience in the marketing field having spent the first decade of her career directing marketing programs for some of the largest companies in the world, including divisions of AT&T and HSBC. Today, her clients include large and small companies around the world and household brands like Citigroup, Cox Communications, Intuit, and more. Susan is frequently interviewed about marketing and branding by television, radio, print, and online media organizations, and she speaks about these topics at events around the world. You can connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or Google+.