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Seven Ways to Advertise on Facebook

  |  August 19, 2008   |  Comments

A media planner's guide to paid advertising opportunities on the social media network.

OK, I've previously examined the different ways you could advertise on Google. To be fair I asked Bianca Garcia, one of our media planners who specializes in social media, to help me compile a list of the advertising opportunities on Facebook.

What's interesting about Facebook: most of the units are non-traditional and are often incorporated in with the content that consumers are actively reading when they login -- mainly the social ads that show up in the Facebook feeds.

Plus, the larger social network sites allow you to get super granular with targeting. They have enough users that you can still hit a large audience even with a bunch of selects. Targeting parameters include: country, state, city or town, age, gender, interests, activities, music, TV shows, education, high school, college, major, workplace, relationship status, profile keywords, and books.

Now there are a many different things to do on Facebook and I may be inadvertently omitting some because new features are being added. The things we are focusing on here are paid advertising opportunities that media planners might take advantage of except for setting up a corporate profile. I'm also not going to get into talking here about applications. Using Facebook applications for advertising and branding is a pretty huge topic and certainly will be the subject of a future column.

Advertising and branding opportunities on Facebook include:

Facebook Pages

  • If you want to immerse yourself on Facebook, the first and most important step is to set up a Facebook page. Facebook pages represent local businesses, products, brands, companies, artists, bands, public figures, and more (take note that this is different from a Facebook profile, which represents an individual). With pages, you can have fans (while with profiles, you can have friends). Pages are easy to set-up, are customizable, and best of all -- free! Pages can have videos, photo albums, Flash pieces, games, discussion boards, and many other things that would help facilitate activity, conversation, and user interaction. In short, pages can help you socialize with the Facebook user, garner brand affinity, and build relationships.

Facebook Ads

  • Sponsored story is a sponsored ad with title, body copy, and image that appears in the user's news feed on the home page, and may link to a Facebook page or an external Web site. It's effective because it offers accurate targeting options based on real profile data. This gives the advertiser the ability to get mass reach or very granular targeting based on keyword information. It also offers high visibility, since it appears on the news feed on the home page (the first thing user sees when they log on to Facebook). Last but not least, sponsored story ads are less intrusive than "regular" ads because of the seamless integration within the news feed.

  • Sponsored social story is relevant only for advertisers with a Facebook page as the sponsored social story directs to that Facebook Page. It's an ad featuring a Facebook user, the action taken, and the brand/product name when the action is taken on the Facebook page (example: "Harry Gold is a fan of Harley-Davidson Motor Company"). Just like the sponsored story ad, a sponsored social story ad also appears in the user's news feed on the home page and offers the same benefits, plus the additional factor of having the same look and feel as organic stories in the news feed -- thus increasing the likelihood of users interacting with the ad because it seems like a "natural" part of their Facebook experience.

  • Video sponsored story is basically a click-to-play video that plays within the ad, and may link to a Facebook page or an external Web site. Like the two ad types above, the video sponsored story appears on the news feed and offers the same benefits. This also has a high level of potential user interactions with the video ad because the user does not have to leave the home page to engage with it.

  • Box ad unit is a box ad unit with title, body copy, and image that appears in the left-hand side (in the old Facebook format) or right-hand side (in the new Facebook format). This ad unit may link to a Facebook page or an external Web site. This is a run-of-site placement, meaning it appears all over Facebook and not just on the home page. It offers the same targeting options as the ads mentioned prior, and this type of Facebook ad may also be bought on a CPM (define) or CPC (define) bidding model -- which means it does not require dollar commitments with an insertion order (IO) as it is managed daily, similar to a Google Adwords account.

  • Display ads, leaderboards, and skyscrapers are also available on Facebook, and are bought through the MSN Ad Center. Display ads offer more flexibility with creatives since the advertiser will not be limited by character count or body copy. Targeting parameters include age, gender, and DMA.

Gift Sponsorships

  • "Gifts" is actually a Facebook application that lets users send and receive virtual gifts. New gifts are added everyday; most gifts cost $1 but some are free for users. "Gifting" is a very popular Facebook activity. Once a user receives a gift, the gift is seen on the recipient's user profile. A gift sponsorship is a one-time sponsorship of a branded gift, which users can give away to their friends for free. The featured gift of the day appears on the home page. Sponsored gifts usually have limited availability, thus adding to the "prestige" of sending a gift or receiving a gift. Even if the gift gets sold out or is no longer available, the gift will still be seen on the receiver's user profile thus extending the life of the gift and the branding component.

OK, so in nutshell those are the major paid media opportunities on Facebook. If I missed any please let me know.


Harry Gold

As founder and CEO of Overdrive, Harry Gold is the architect and conductor behind the company's ROI-driven programs. His primary mission is to create innovative marketing programs based on real-world success and to ensure the marketing and technology practices that drive those successes are continually institutionalized into the culture and methods of the agency. What excites him is the knowledge that Overdrive's collaborative environment has created a company of online media, SEM, and online behavioral experts who drive success for the clients and companies they serve. Overdrive serves a diverse base of B2B and B2C clients that demand a high level of accountability and ROI from their online programs and campaigns.

Harry started his career in 1995 when he founded online marketing firm Interactive Promotions, serving such clients as Microsoft, "The Financial Times," the Hard Rock Cafe, and the City of Boston. Since then, he has been at the forefront of online branding and channel creation, developing successful Web and search engine-based marketing programs for various agencies and Fortune 500 companies.

Harry is a frequent lecturer on SEM and online media for The New England Direct Marketing Association; Ad Club; the University of Massachusetts, Boston; Harvard University; and Boston University.

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