When Facebook first went national, you needed a college email address to sign up. Soon, of course, it expanded so that your network started to include work colleagues, which was initially sort of awkward, and required some re-jiggering of how your profile page looked. Next, it was family members (more awkward), your parents (really awkward), and so on.
Now, with the site having gone public and eager to drum up ways to increase ad revenue, we’re seeing tensions emerge over a new element: sponsored stories. Companies can pay to create advertisements, or “sponsored stories,” when people click the “like” button on their Facebook page, or share something relating to their brand. Technically, users agree to this within the 4,000-word Terms of Service they check when signing up, but a New York Times article about the ads, which feature individual users’ profile shots appearing to endorse a product, has created a bit of a row around the practice.
Sponsored stories have been pointed to as a way for content marketers to promote their content. Since sponsored stories are only displayed to a user’s own friend network, they are considered more credible and qualified.
However, this implicit endorsement can tread pretty easily onto some uncomfortable terrain — and it raises even more questions about what a “like” really means. The “like” has become the de facto currency of online marketers. But does it mean a user is agreeing to endorse something, whether that’s a brand or an article or a page? On a certain instinctual level, it seems the answer is yes — after all, they’ve publicly declared they “like” it, right? But of course things aren’t that cut-and-dry all the time.
There isn’t a satisfactory answer yet for the best way to handle this; we’re still in the infancy of social network marketing. We know that brands in 2012 need to be on Facebook; that’s just a reality. But in aggressively marketing themselves in what up until very recently was intended to be a “friends-only” zone, they do run the risk of alienating the very people they’re trying to connect with.
It’s worth thinking hard about what your brand’s Facebook page is trying to achieve, and what actions will and won’t get you there. Sponsored stories may make tons of sense for you — or they may not. But it needs to be discussed.
Speaking of discussion, here are our weekly batch of links to some other smart takes on content marketing from around the Web:
From Mashable’s Facebook Marketing Series, Lauren Drell offers up 10 marketing mistakes to avoid, and there are some good tips in there: Did you know the ideal posting rate is at (or even less than) once a day? That people engage (share, comment, like) 18 percent more on Thursdays and Fridays? If you’re considering running a contest on your page, especially, read this over for some emerging best practices. — Mashable
Seventy percent of people read email on their phone. And anyone who’s ever tried to read a marketing newsletter on their little iPhone screen knows what a pain that is. The writing’s on the wall now: Mobile is king. Make sure your content marketing strategies have that in mind. Does your blog read well on mobile devices? Are your newsletters formatted to be read on a small screen? Do you use responsive web design? — Business 2 Community
Producing great articles, blog posts, webcasts, videos, and infographics for your website is a great idea — and around here, it’s preaching to the converted. But by reaching out — guest blogging, syndicating content, being interviewed on other blogs — you can not only extend your brand’s reach, but also help with traffic referrals and increased SEO juice for your own site. — Business 2 Community.
Image used under Creative Commons by Flickr user cambodia4kidsorg.