Facebook Muddies the Ad Waters

We’re confused, guys.

Facebook’s recent announcement about the demise of Sponsored Stories means that “[Facebook] is shifting away from doing the heavy lifting of creating interest in ads and instead assuming the traditional media role as a provider of a large audience,” according to John McDermott in Digiday.

Per Facebook, “… 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.”

McDermott goes on to talk about how the social media platform will “return a sense of quality to the News Feed” by favoring comments, likes and shares over sponsorship. In other words, you can’t simply buy your way to an audience; you have to create ads which are worthy of being shared/liked/commented upon (which, we might point out, is the exact opposite of the “traditional media role of providing a large audience”).

Says McDermott, “Agencies that want to continue using Facebook as a means for the same old quick, easy reach will be able to do so, but they’ll simply have pay for it. As such, Facebook stands to benefit either way; agencies will have to either start making ads that generate organic interest among users, or they’ll pony up to have their uninspired creative reach an equal number of users. If the quality of the average Facebook post doesn’t increase, what agencies pay to promote lackluster posts will.”

What does it all mean for agencies and their clients? It’s still a bit of a mystery, not just to us but to McDermott also. The bottom line is, it seems that Facebook wants companies to post “better quality” content, or they won’t show it without pay.

We do know that there will be new qualifications for getting your ad in the News Feed, but we don’t know what those are yet. It’s fascinating to watch this whole thing unfold. And frankly, it seems like Facebook doesn’t quite know what they mean yet either.

All of which makes it pretty hard to know if Facebook advertising is still a “good idea.”