"Sponsored stories," along with premium ads, now eligible for distribution in the Facebook newsfeed. Check out this and five other key changes.
Facebook on Wednesday updated Pages, its online offering for businesses and organizations, to make them more consistent with individual profiles and to help companies connect more effectively with customers.
The company introduced the improvements in conjunction with fMC, a Facebook event for marketers that's being held in New York.
Addressing conference attendees, COO Sheryl Sandberg provided the obligatory evangelism of social sharing. "What it means to be social is that if you want to talk to me, you have to listen to me as well," she said, suggesting that businesses must interact online with their customers.
The rules have changed and one-way communication doesn't work anymore, Sandberg insisted. "Social media is starting to transform companies," she said, citing gaming companies like Zynga as the most compelling example.
Mike Hoefflinger, director of global business marketing at Facebook, attempted to translate Sandberg's celebration of social networking into meaningful advice for businesses.
"We are evolving from ad to stories," he said. "Ads come from anyone at anytime. Stories come from people and things that you're connected to."
In other words, marketers no longer advertise on Facebook. They tell stories, and Facebook helps distribute those ads...er, stories to Facebook users. Starting today, Hoefflinger said, Sponsored Stories, along with Premium ads, will be eligible for distribution in the Facebook newsfeed, which generates over 1 billion impressions per day.
"This is the place where marketing on Facebook is going to feel like the rest of Facebook," he said.
Ads that feel like non-commercial commentary? In many corners of traditional print media, this is frowned upon. There is an effort to distinguish between advertising and editorial, for the sake of reader trust. Facebook sees no distinction. Everything is "a story." Every advertiser is "a friend."
Hoefflinger insists that stories work, noting that stories inserted into the newsfeeds of Facebook users perform five to ten times better than Facebook ads in other contexts.
For businesses and organizations, telling stories begins with Pages.
"Pages is mission control for your business on Facebook," said Hoefflinger, "the place for your identity and the launchpad for your stories. ...What we're introducing today is the richest, most customizable marketing canvas we've ever built."
Pages features six noteworthy improvements:
Businesses and organizations can now place a large image at the top of their Pages.
Visitors to Pages may now see recent posts from friends highlighted as friend activity and a list of friends connected to a Page.
Larger Stories, Milestones, and Page Timeline
Thanks to a new layout, Page publishers can show larger ads, or in Facebook parlance, tell stories with larger images and with milestone designations that include a date and related content.
Organizations can now keep posts at the top of their Page for up to seven days.
A new control panel for Page adminstrators provides data about Page metrics and tools for responding to private messages.
Page admins now have a Page activity log to help with post management and tracking.
Empowered by Pages, all that remains for businesses and organizations is to make the one-to-one model of friendship work at scale. All you need is a good story, Facebook suggests. At least, that's Facebook's story and it's sticking to it.