How To Turn Engagement into Promotion with Facebook Sponsored Stories

Note: not all of these ads meet Facebook’s definition of sponsored stories, but they function in much the same way – pushing your page content to users who aren’t visiting your page.

At any given time, I’m running multiple Facebook ad campaigns for my campus. In November I participated in the Facebook Marketing Bootcamp and decided to give sponsored stories a try. Since then, this particular ad campaign (which I call simply Page Promotion) has resulted in over 1.4 million impressions, 90 clicks, and 18 new Facebook fans. It cost only $100, and in my opinion was a golden opportunity to do two things:

  • Showcase our engaged Facebook community
  • Pass on a message about the value of our institution to people who would otherwise not receive it.

Ad Examples

Here is an example of an ad that showcases engagement on our page.

This was not a planned ad. While I was away at a conference, an intern in my office posted this question on our page. As you can see, it got a great response from our current and former students. All 29 comments were positive and represented a wide selection of instructors and reasons for choosing them. This is an authentic reaction that I wanted to broadcast to the world. So, on the fly, I created a sponsored story that targeted people age 16 – 32 who lived within 50 miles of our campus and aren’t fans of our Facebook page. I ran the ad for a few weeks, and it resulted in 150,000 impressions, 10 clicks, and four Facebook fans. It cost only $10. I’ll gladly pay $10 to get this message to potential students in our area.

Another way to use sponsored stories is to publicize great web content. The cost versus benefit of higher education is a hot topic right now, and an editorial appeared in our local paper that was extremely complimentary about our institution in that regard. I posted the story on Facebook, and then realized that I had an opportunity to push it out to much more than our 900+ Facebook fans. So, it was time for another sponsored story. The headline of this editorial made the ad particularly compelling.

Now, you’l notice the engagement on this post was much lower, but that wasn’t what I wanted to capitalize on. I wanted to push this fantastic perspective out to other people, and a sponsored story allowed me to do that. The ad has been running continuously since November 22 to everyone over the age of 16 that lives within 25 miles of our campus that isn’t already connected to us on Facebook (that’s 684,000 users). It’s received over a million impressions, 56 clicks, and netted us seven new Facebook fans. Total cost: $78.

How To Create A Sponsored Story Ad

Creating Facebook ads is easy, and you can advertise any page, event, or application you administer. Go to, click “create an ad,” and you’ll walk right through the process. If you want to create a sponsored story, you have to already have the content you want to promote on Facebook (a page post, a shared link, etc). Define your audience (on your first try, you’ll want to be more general than specific to guarantee impressions), enter your bid (I always do CPM—cost per thousand impressions—rather than CPC—cost per click—but that’s just my personal preference), and you’re off to the races.

If you want to learn more about sponsored stories, Facebook provides a quick introduction video. Also, to find out about more learning opportunities like the marketing bootcamp I participated in, be sure to like Facebook Marketing Solutions. For instance, sponsored stories will soon be showing up in user timelines, rather than on the right-hand side of the screen (which allows you to reach more mobile users). You’ll want to know when that happens.

What’s Next

After getting such a great response to the sponsored story of the newspaper editorial, it become clear that “college debt” was a topic that resonated with my target audience. This led me to create an entirely different campaign, which combines the ability to link off-Facebook content to a Facebook page, and tap into social impressions. I’ll write about that next 🙂

Have you used sponsored stories? I’d love to hear more about your experiences and opinions in the comments.

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5 Comments on “How To Turn Engagement into Promotion with Facebook Sponsored Stories

  1. Pingback: Why Facebook Ads Work for Higher Education | Liz Gross

  2. Pingback: Social Media Toolkit | csweiss

  3. great post, very informative. I wonder why the other experts of this sector do not notice this. You should continue your writing. I’m sure, you’ve a great readers’ base already!

  4. Pingback: Facebook Ads Update | Liz Gross

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