Facebook announced today that it is phasing out ‘Sponsored Stories,’ the advertising feature that allowed businesses to highlight your friends activities or interactions with their pages , apps or events.
While it proved popular with marketers, users were a little more than unnerved when their “liking” activites were showing up in other people’s feeds, without them having the ability to opt out of it. This resulted in a class action lawsuit by users against Facebook, which led to the company having to pay out $20 million in order to settle the case.
In a blog post for developers today, Facebook wrote:
- Facebook will sunset the creation of sponsored stories
- Page post and page like ads already automatically have the best social context (likes and comments) added. You may choose to add share social context by specifying social_prefs=[‘allow_shares’] on the adgroup. Existing page post and page like sponsored stories will continue to deliver so you must support fetching them.
- Domain and open graph sponsored stories will no longer be allowed to be created. Existing domain and open graph sponsored stories will cease to have delivery after April 9th.
What this means is that Facebook is encouraging the organic pursuit of likes and comments on brand pages and activity, which will show up in user’s newsfeeds just like the rest of their liking and commenting activity. Since this has become the goal for most brand activity, Sponsored Stores becomes redundant. Plus for users, they can now opt out of displaying that kind of activity, which gives them the option to be willing brand advocates without having their activity appropriated against their wishes.
For brands, this means they have to try harder to get organic engagement on Facebook. But on the upside, they are probably more likely to get genuine engagement if people see their friends engaging with the brand, knowing that it isn’t just sponsored content.