Home Data-Driven Thinking In The ‘Sacred’ News Feed, Programmatic Buyers Must Follow Different Rules

In The ‘Sacred’ News Feed, Programmatic Buyers Must Follow Different Rules


kolinkleveno“Data Driven Thinking” is written by members of the media community and contains fresh ideas on the digital revolution in media.

Today’s column is written by Kolin Kleveno, director of performance display at 360i.

With Facebook Exchange expanding its canvas to the desktop News Feed, marketers face a new set of challenges.

Unlike traditional publisher websites, the new Facebook environment presents a land grab involving disparate parties, namely content and community managers, social-ad buyers and programmatic-ad buyers.

The News Feed began as a place for users to browse the most pertinent content coming from friends and “liked” pages, as dictated by Facebook’s EdgeRank algorithm. Users have come to expect certain types of messaging and content within the News Feed, and while they’ve begun accepting advertising on the page’s right-hand rail, the News Feed is still considered a sacred place.

Since the origin of the News Feed is rooted in genuine social content (that is, nonadvertising posts), programmatic buyers will want to view the News Feed as users’ home turf and therefore must learn and adhere to a new set of rules.

With that in mind, the performance opportunity is great: Retargeted ads in the News Feed perform far better than those placed in the right rail or even ones placed on other websites, a recent AdRoll study found. Exchange-based ads in the feed have 49 times higher CTR and a 54% lower cost-per-click than right-rail ads. Moreover, compared to ads placed on websites beyond Facebook, exchanged-based ads in the feed have CTRs that are 20 times higher.

This research suggests that users aren’t averse to engaging with exchange-based ads in the News Feed. However, there are customs that programmatic buyers can borrow from other players in the game – content and community managers and social-ad buyers – that will help them better reach their customers within the Facebook environment.

Here are three ways programmatic buyers can achieve success in the News Feed.

Collaborate On A Content Calendar

Marketers now have up to three specialized teams crafting and publishing messaging within the News Feed: content and community managers, who provide content to people who have “liked” a page; social-ad buyers, who amplify page content and acquire new fans; and programmatic buyers, who retarget user behavior off Facebook within the News Feed.


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As general best practice, FBX campaigns should be woven into broader content calendar for earned media and paid social. This will involve articulating flight schedules and pulsing strategy in advance, while migrating from a siloed approach to a more efficient, unified approach that ensures optimal performance for the brand as a whole and prevents overexposing its customers to brand messaging.

Borrow Best Practices

For the same reasons that marketers posting content from their pages adopt a social tone of voice and apply a content strategy to mimic the sharing behaviors of users, programmatic buyers will want to approach their ads slightly differently than they would within the right rail or on an ordinary website. As with other types of targeted advertising, content here should be relevant, timely and compelling. Consumers are more accustomed to seeing conversational messaging within the News Feed, so when done right, advertisers can play up the tone and language that resonates within the brand-owned community on Facebook.

Programmatic buyers should avoid treating the Facebook News Feed in the same way they treat other sources of inventory. For example, a retailer could serve a News Feed ad featuring a product that someone had abandoned in his or her shopping cart, along with some playful copy, depending on the brand, reminding them of their recent interest in the item. (“Forget something? We hate when that happens. Shop now to take 20% off your order.”) The combination of conversational messaging in line with the brand’s social tone of voice and a direct call to action is a powerful mix if approached from a collaborative mindset.

By collaborating with social-content teams, programmatic buyers can ensure they are playing by the right rules in a way that is natural for the brand in that space. It’s important to keep in mind that the people being served impressions here are not necessarily fans, but they are hand-raisers who have demonstrated an interest in a brand in other ways, such as a visit to the brand’s website.

Play Up Programmatic Strengths Despite A More Social Context

Community and content managers, paid social specialists and programmatic buyers each bring a unique set of strengths to the table. While collaboration and cross-pollination are important, programmatic buyers should remain focused on their own objectives to drive performance, whether those are tied to direct-response actions or branding initiatives.

For example, both a brand’s paid social team and its programmatic team could potentially serve ads to nonfans in the News Feed, but who should take precedence? In the first case, brands can encourage relevant nonfans to take an action, such as visit their website or Facebook page, via Page Post Link ads, but these may not be timely within the context of user behavior outside of Facebook. Currently, brands can target Page Post Link ads to fans, friends of fans, people within certain interest groups and other users based on various types of Facebook data, which is something that’s very useful for reaching a relevant audience.

On the other hand, exchange-based ads leverage cookie-based data, allowing marketers to capitalize on the recency of a user’s interest to deliver more relevant advertising within the News Feed. It’s the difference between serving a generic ad to a user who “liked” your page months ago, and serving an ad to someone who browsed your site earlier that day and showed a propensity to convert.

The question then becomes how to operate both levers together. While there is certainly much to be learned from the content and community side of the equation, advertisers will want to balance those best practices with marketing objectives for programmatic executions that will translate well in the News Feed.

Greater Collaboration Needed

Beginning with the ability to target Facebook ads to nonfans, and now with the inclusion of exchange-based ads, the News Feed is becoming a mix of clearly sponsored content alongside the expected updates from friends and brands. Underscoring each of the tips listed above is a need for greater collaboration across the teams controlling various levers of a brand’s Facebook strategy. Coordination of the timing and tone of content, cross-pollination of best practices and a focus on programmatic objectives will be critical to success as display-media buyers enter these uncharted waters.

Close partnerships between these various groups will only grow in importance as this trend extends to other social platforms. Recently, for example, Twitter announced its own retargeting solution based on email addresses and cookies. Though the details of this offering are not yet clear, the inclusion of retargeting on Twitter aligns with a broader trend, set forth by Facebook, which narrows the gap between programmatic and social.

Follow Kolin Kleveno (@kolinkleveno), 360i (@360i) and AdExchanger (@adexchanger) on Twitter.

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