Facebook Promoted Posts (Sorta) Explained [Updated]

    May 31, 2012

Facebook started rolling out its Promoted Posts feature for Page administrators last week but, unfortunately, didn’t explain a whole lot in how this new tool actually works. It sounds like it could be a useful tool, but its quiet introduction produced more questions than it provided answers. How will the promoted post appear on a follower’s page? How is the pricing scale determined? These are probably things every Page administrator should know before they start throwing money down the big, blue wishing well of Facebook.

Anybody given the promoted posts a test drive yet? Do you feel that Facebook is trying to double-charge businesses to reach their followers, or is this a new marketing tool with some legitimate value? Share your experience with us and other readers in the comments below.

Perhaps finally getting wind of the fact that this tool, while potentially useful, isn’t exactly as intuitive as Facebook may have expected, the company released a video today explaining a little bit more about how promoted posts work.

Most revealing about this explanation is that whenever someone who follows your Page likes, comments, or shares your promoted post, all of that person’s friends will see that promoted post as well. This was mentioned all the way back in February at Facebook’s marketing conference but, really, with all the changes that the company continues to introduce, it’s hard to keep up sometimes.

First, a post can only be promoted for 3 days. You can start promoting it the moment it’s posted to your Timeline or you can promote it shortly afterward. However, if you choose not to promote it upon posting it, know that the amount of time that any post can be promoted is 3 days from the time that post is created. In other words, if you make a post on Monday at 12PM but don’t promoted it until Tuesday at 12PM, your post will only stay promoted for two days since the shelf-life of that post’s promotability will expire on Thursday at 12PM, the third day since that post was created. Make sense?

If you’ve got a post that you only want promoted during certain times, you can pause and resume a promoted post anytime. I’ve included the video below, but given some of the questions that readers have had regarding last week’s unrolling of promoted posts, I’m afraid some of you will find this video scant of answers you’re looking for.

Nothing on in the video or the FAQ, which is now available, suggests that the posts you choose to promote will float near the top of the news feed the way a Twitter promoted tweet appears. Instead, by all estimations, it appears that the post will simply be inserted into your followers’ news feeds in the chronological order that it was posted. So yes, infer that if your follower has 1,000 friends or so, it’s possible that the post you paid money to promote could get drowned out in the news feed somewhat quickly. We sent an email to Facebook to clarify where and how exactly the promoted post will appear in a follower’s newsfeed, but as of writing this we haven’t heard back.

When the Promote feature first started appearing last week, the payment scale was paired with the estimate of users you could reach with each monetary value. I won’t explain that all over again here, but if you missed it, check out the previous article about Facebook’s promoted posts.

One new tool that I’ve noticed since the promotion tool appeared on WebProNews’ Page is the statistical information at the bottom of each post. In the lower left-hand corner, you’ll see the number of people reached and what percentage of your fans that number represents.

Facebook Promoted Posts

By either hovering over or clicking the number of people reached, you’ll see a breakdown of how people saw the post. In the example provided, you’ll see how many people were reached organically, virally, and paid.

Facebook Promoted Posts

Facebook Promoted Posts

I’m throwing in this example from Facebook to illustrate what the graph looks like with all three types of reach.

Facebook Promoted Posts

After clicking on the percentage of people reached, you’ll see a small balloon appear with a breakdown of how people were reached. The first example below is from Facebook, and I’m going to go ahead and say it: 440 people of 608 isn’t 40% of the total, it’s more like 72%. I’m not sure what confidence you should have in Facebook’s example if the example itself can’t compute percentages, but then again, it’d be nice if Facebook actually explained this with a little more clarity.

Facebook Promoted Posts

More mathematically accurate, here’s the example I took from WPN’S Facebook Page.

Facebook Promoted Posts

In the top example, you’ll notice two colors, blue and green. The color scale is the same as in the bar graph you saw when looking at the actual number of people reached: blue for organic/without promotion, red for viral, and green for paid. Essentially, these two options show you most of the same data, it’s just a matter of how you prefer to think of your reach: raw numbers or percentages.

I suggest perusing the FAQ about promoted posts for more information about how this feature works. For example, you can apparently target an audience in a specific location but in order to even have the capability to promote a post, your Page needs to have a minimum of 400 likes. Things like that are important to know, especially if you’re going to fork over your money to Facebook.

Note that when you see the number of followers your promoted posts will reach in the “Promote” drop-down menu, the operative word here is “estimate.” You may pay $50 to reach an estimate of 12,000 followers, but that number could likely be lower. Then again, that could also be higher – it’s just the way the dice tumbles, I suppose, although it’s puzzling that there isn’t a more accurate algorithm that could simply select 12,000 followers to deploy your promoted post to.

If this all seems like you’re paying for the same promotion twice…. you wouldn’t be faulted for thinking that. In order to even have the option to promote a post, you must first advertise and promote your page by other means in order to get the requisite 400 followers. That can cost you in either time or money, or both, depending on how aggressively and quickly you want to amass that 400. But then, once your Page has leveled up enough so that you can promote posts, you must then pay yet again so that you can continue to reach all of the people you’ve worked so diligently to pull under your Page’s umbrella.

Unless there’s still some pieces missing to the puzzle of promoted posts or I’m simply failing to grasp Facebook’s purpose here, the promoted posts don’t exactly seem like a progressive way for a brand to promote themselves on Facebook.

UPDATE: A Facebook spokesperson replied to a few questions I had about the promoted post features. Below is the Q&A from our correspondence:

1. When a post is promoted, will it just fit into the chronology of the regular newsfeed or will it float near the top of the newsfeed so it always remains prominent? A promoted post will act like any other ad or Sponsored Story in your News Feed.

2. Do you have any examples of what the promoted post would look like in a followers feed? See the Help Center here – an example of what a post might look like is under the fifth question if you expand it. Saw you linked to the Help Center in your post, but wanted to make sure you saw the example.

3. Is the pricing scale of the promoted post’s reach ($5, $10, $15, etc.) based on the number of followers a Page has? Or is the pricing scale the same for all pages? These ads and Sponsored Stories are priced the same way as ads and Sponsored Stories purchased elsewhere.

So what do you make of all of this pay-to-promote business? Is Facebook shooting itself in the foot and ruffling the feathers of businesses, or do you see this being a beneficial tool Facebook has given businesses? Again, let us know what you think below.