Facebook Sunsets Sponsored Stories Ad Program

After running into legal trouble over privacy, Facebook finally decided to shut down its sponsored stories ad program in early January 2014. The message posted on Facebook forum for developers said the domain and open graph sponsored stories will no longer be allowed to be created while existing domain and open graph sponsored stories will cease to have delivery after April 9th, 2014. Though this update may affect the Facebook marketing efforts of businesses, it will be a great relief for those who do not want their personal details used in ads without their consent.

Sponsored stories are simply messages coming from your friends about their engagement with a page, app or event that a business, organization or individual has paid to highlight so that it has greater visibility. Such stories always said “Sponsored” and appeared either in your News Feed or on the right side of the home page. The main feature of sponsored stories was that it could create social endorsement for ads. That is, if a Facebook user liked your company’s product, that action along with that person’s profile picture would be shown as an advertisement in their friends’ newfeeds or home page:

Sponsored Story in Newsfeed

Though such advertising was effective, it rankled privacy advocates who filed a class-action lawsuit against Facebook arguing that the company violated the privacy rights of minors by publishing their ‘likes’ and profile picture in ads without their permission. After a prolonged legal battle, a U.S. district judge agreed to a $20 million settlement in August last year. Consequently, Facebook decided to sunset the Sponsored Stories and changed its privacy policy stating that the users can choose to add share social context (likes, comments and other stories about social actions) by specifying it (social_prefs=[‘allow_shares’]) on the adgroup. The company made it clear on a recent blog post that though the sponsored stories feature would be expelled, the social context would appear next to all ads shown to Facebook friends where eligible.

According to Facebook, with this update, advertisers can no longer create an advertisement that mainly focuses on showing a Facebook user’s likes or check-ins to their friends. However, they can publish their ads that include users’ likes and pictures in both the newsfeeds and side panels of Facebook pages as long as the likes and pictures are not the main focus of the ad.

Your Internet marketing campaign can continue to use sponsored stories until the expiration date of April 9, 2014. And remember that there are many other ways you can leverage Facebook for business. A professional SEO company can show you how.

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