Earlier this year, Facebook introduced a new type of advertising that highlights the activity of a user's friends who have interacted with a given brand on the site.
For example, if your cousin checked into an Applebee's on Facebook, the restaurant could buy an ad that highlights that fact on the right hand side of the page as you navigate the site.
Not unlike Twitter's Promoted Tweets, this new ad format takes social content and turns it into a marketing message, blurring the lines between content and advertising, but doing so in a way that's still transparent to users. So how effective is it?
One Facebook advertising platform provider has found that Sponsored Story ad units have click-through rate that's 46% higher than standard Facebook ads, according to a post on Inside Facebook.
TBG Digital conducted a test over the course of ten days and 2 billion ad impressions, which showed that the Sponsored Story ads performed better in terms of click-through rate and cost per click.
These results aren't all together shocking, considering that Facebook has explicitly designed these ad units to more closely resemble user-generated content on the site. Whereas advertisers have for decades tried to sell the message that "everybody's doing it" to persuade consumers, today they can get very specific and tell you exactly who among your friends likes or interacts with a given brand. Since people tend to trust their friends more than they do marketers, it's no surprise that tying the two together would be more effective than other forms of advertising.
Granted, this is only one study and with three advertisers participating, it wasn't a huge sample. Facebook still makes more money from their traditional social ads, but these early data suggest that there may be a future for the Sponsored Stories ads.
What do you think? Are you more likely to click on ads showing your friends' activity on Facebook? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.