In an arguably quiet move, Facebook has apparently begun testing a feature to let their users share non-Facebook placed ads. I say arguably quiet because the story was featured on Mashable last week. The ad that was cited in the story was for salad dressing maker Hidden Valley Ranch and carried a label of Featured Partner. The end result of these ads is that they lead the Facebook users to the client’s site, as this is the only place where the ad can be re-shared. So what does this mean for the future of Facebook ads and Facebook marketing?
This new advertising feature, if it is launched to the general marketing public, might devalue as everyone begins to use it. Then again, with the Promoted Page Posts, the playing field may be a little more level now. It’s hard to speculate how much people will be using either feature. Sure, large companies are going to want to post ads that pull users directly to their pages but smaller companies may not be able to afford the additional budget expenses. There was no mention of the cost of the Featured Partner posts, whereas the Promoted Page Posts cost $5 each. So what should you do if you own a small business?
Promoted Posts are designed to increase your brand visibility and awareness among people who already like your page. Since a small percentage of your posts are even seen by your intended audience, you are appealing to people who already like your product. Sponsored Stories and Featured Partner posts are more than likely targeted to specific demographics as well but should be able to reach a much wider audience.
Perhaps the Promoted Page Posts will help keep the smaller companies on a more even playing field with the companies who are paying for Sponsored Stories and now Featured Partner posts. This underscores the need for engaging content even further. It also brings up many questions about the fairness of these practices where the small business owner is concerned. Bringing in outside ads as featured posts on Facebook creates an interesting argument. Do you spend more money on the eventual landing page content and less money on the Facebook page?
It remains to be seen if the Featured Partners advertising will become a permanent part of Facebook ads. If they do, then Facebook will have to explain to its investors how this won’t hurt the thousands of small businesses which are investing their livelihoods on Facebook, the same small businesses who can’t compete with the big businesses which will no doubt be buying large quantities of these premium ads. Hopefully Facebook will only sell a specified amount of premium adspace. Otherwise, the continued morphing of Facebook into Adbook will take its next unfortunate step.