All anyone seems to be talking about these days is how much they dislike Timeline, Facebook's new user interface for business and brand Pages. Fortunately, the social networking giant also offered a couple of new advertising options that might just ease the tension surrounding the new look and feel.
During Facebook's Marketing Conference in New York last week, the company announced its plan to launch new ads, which will look less like advertisements and more like content. The revamped ads will appear in the right column of a user's page, a user's News Feed, within a company's Timeline page and on Facebook's log-out page. Currently, ads appear only on the right side of a user's Facebook page.
Here's what you need to know about Facebook's new ads:
Offers: The most important and widely available new advertising tool for small businesses is called Offers, which allows businesses, brands and other Page owners to share discounts and offers with their fans. Making an Offer is as easy a creating a Status Update. Once posted to your Timeline, fans can claim the offer and use it at your business's brick-and-mortar location or other point of purchase. And best of all, it doesn't cost anything to create, post or claim an Offer.
How is an Offer any different from a Status Update that promotes a discount? By design, Offers are ideally suited to be promoted as Sponsored Stories, which increases the number of Facebook users who see them. If you're unfamiliar with Sponsored Stories, here's the attraction: You pay Facebook to put the spotlight on Status Updates, Offers or other posts (i.e., stories) that are generated by you and appear within your Timeline. The "sponsored story" then appears in the News Feed of not only your fans but of their friends.
So in other words, by paying to sponsor the story, a person's friends are more likely to see it and may similarly be interested in your special deal. Offers appear on both the desktop and mobile versions of Facebook's News Feed and are being rolled out to Facebook Pages over the next few months.
Reach Generator: Facebook's Reach Generator is a system that allows advertisers to pay a fixed fee to ensure that their content/ads will be seen by 75 percent of their fans. (Currently, the company estimates that a business's branded page reaches just 16 percent of fans on average.) Instead of paying by the click like many who use Facebook's self-serve advertising platform, Facebook hopes the fixed rate will appeal to advertisers. Though the system is targeted at deep-pocketed brands at present, it could offer a lower-cost option for smaller businesses in the weeks and months to come.
The bottom line on Facebook's new ad programs is, if you're creating ads and content that resonates with your fans, you'll be able to leverage that material even more than before. Facebook requires several actions to occur before a paid advertisement shows up in the feed. Users must Like a page, or user's friends must Like, Comment, Share, Check in or claim an Offer. Otherwise, you can still buy a display ad that appears on the right side of the page just like everybody else's.
In my view, Facebook is brilliantly pursuing what I call "engagement advertising." By tapping into your already trending content and existing discounts, Facebook now provides opportunities to broadcast those messages to a wider audience.
How will Facebook's new ads affect your business? Let us know in the comments section.
Mikal E. Belicove is a market positioning, social media, and management consultant specializing in website usability and business blogging. His latest book, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Facebook, is now available at bookstores. For more information, visit MikalBelicove.com.