Does Facebook’s Sponsored Stories make sense for nonprofits?

After listening to Katie Faul, head of Global Ads, Product Marketing Facebook, I thought it just might – so I’ll check it out and post about it soon. Katie described how UNICEF nearly doubled the number of fans it had on Facebook – to 107,000 fans – using tools like Sponsored Stories.

Katie used the power of stories to communicate the impact of social sharing on Word-of-mouth. She described how her friend’s online sharing about his workout led to 10 new customers of a fitness machine. Online sharing helps people find jobs, learn about bands and discover small businesses.

Whereas the Internet was used largely for search in the 90s, now it’s used to ask friends for their recommendations, or for social sharing. Now the majority of website traffic may come from social sharing (via Facebook or Twitter, for example) rather than search.

One of the biggest changes has been with photo sharing. More photos are now shared on Facebook than all of the online photo sharing sites combined.

Companies are now using Facebook as a critical part of product development. She referenced the experience of Squishables, which recently asked online friends what color they preferred for their latest toy. 15 percent of Squishables sales now comes directly from Facebook.

AmEx created Small Business Saturday and attracted over a million friends who began sharing stories about their favorite local small businesses. Besides the promotion’s rapid traction, retail sales tripled year over year for that Saturday.

Katie suggested that small businesses – or nonprofits – use signs in physical locations to encourage people to join you on Facebook, or “like us” ads for those that do not have bricks and mortar.

Sponsored stories is Facebook’s new product that allows organizations to achieve greater visibility by advertising in association with news feeds.

Facebook is thinking about how to help increase the volume and quality of spontaneous stories through Facebook. Sponsored stories, unlike a Facebook ad, “pin” a story to the right hand column of someone’s wall (for a fee, of course). But they are stories shared by someone you know rather than a third party organization. Sponsored Stories isn’t just one thing; there are actually seven different versions depending on whether someone wants to deploy it on a website or Facebook page.

The best stories are simple – and entertaining. Most people are in a “lean back” mode when they look at their news feed. In at sense, photos are a story, so photos are way to communicate something simple.

A key theme of Katie’s talk was amplification. How do you avoid getting lost in someone’s feed, or ignored?

Whether or not nonprofits use a tool like Sponsored Stories, the concept of amplification makes a lot of sense.

(posted live from All Facebook Expo from my iPad… With apologies for formatting glitches or errors!)

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