Sponsored Stories as Social Proof

Do you have 5 or 10 minutes for an incredibly funny video?

What if I promise you it will deliver not only one but three Facebook Advertising secrets? Or if I told you all those secrets were on display within the first  3 minutes of the video?

Oh, just go ahead and watch it already:

So if you were paying attention you probably noticed three things about this very first No Pants Subway Ride footage:

  1. You have to start with something attention-worthy to begin with. If the subway riding improv artists had merely been wearing bermuda shorts on their winter subway ride, it would have been a bit weird, but not obviously striking in a place like NYC.  So you have to start with something truly noteworthy to begin with, but that alone is oftentimes not enough.
  2. A pattern makes a bigger impact than a one-off irregularity.  One no-pants subway rider was rather easily ignorable.  The woman of her video took note of the rider, and went right back to her book.  Two pantless riders was weird but not absolutely compelling. But by the third no-pants-wearing rider, the woman put her book away and the improv actors had her absolute, full attention.
  3. When people sense the pattern, they look to others to figure out what it means. The woman in the video wasn’t sure what to make of all these pantless subway riders.  Indeed, she looked anywhere from scared to more than mildly unnerved about the whole thing until she made eye contact with another rider. Once she makes that eye contact (at the 2:32 mark in the video) the woman absorbs the other riders reaction as her own: he thought it was hysterical and so did she.

So how does all this apply to Facebook Advertising?

Well the first 2 points directly relate to regular ads:

  • Start with ads that are hard to ignore, through visually striking and emotionally compelling images that cary a high “story factor.”  You need to get people’s attention in the first place.
  • Make your ads a patterned campaign.  The same attention-grabbing ad will soon become easily ignorable over a very short time frame.  Just like new and exciting billboards quickly fade into background noise after a while, except “ad fatigue” happens much faster on Facebook.  So think in terms of a campaign worth of ads, rather than one-off ad attempts.

And the last point applies to Sponsored stories:

  • Use sponsored stories to help your audience “make sense of” the pattern you created with your ads. Sponsored stories spotlight the social proof required to move your newly and creatively advertised product from a curiosity to a curiosity worth investigating seriously.

Why Sponsored Stories Make the Difference

While the first two points are fairly standard advice — write great, attention-grabbing ads & keep the ads fresh — it’s this third point that’s relatively unique and widely underused in Facebook advertising today. Social Media is, by definition, social. So social proof is HUGE, and therefore one of the most powerful leverage points you can use in your advertising.  And sponsored stories helps you use social proof to your advantage.

That said, sponsored stories work best in a situation where people are already looking for social cues, and creating that situation is exactly what a great Facebook Campaign can provide.