Facebook is trialling new Sponsored Story ads that promote content using new user actions, such as watching a movie or listening to a song.
It is the latest development in Facebook’s ad platform using Open Graph actions that allow brands to use new verbs to describe what a user is doing beyond just ‘liking’ a product or service.
In the test advertisers can pay to promote stories about a user reading an article or listening to a song even if they do not own the app in which the action was taken.
The trial, which is being carried out on a very limited basis, comes less than a month after Facebook launched 60 new timeline apps that offer users another way of sharing what they are doing with friends.
This includes branded apps from companies like Ticketmaster, Pinterest and TripAdvisor.
At first glance the upgrades to Sponsored Stories using Open Graph appear to be an excellent tool for advertisers as it gives them more freedom to promote specific content and the ads benefit from being user-initiated.
Facebook has long been promoting the effectiveness of ads that have some social context around them.
However, as Inside Facebook points out, there are currently “few instances in which advertisers might find this sort of advertising worthwhile – both because of limited scale and unclear return on investment”.
The nature of Sponsored Stories allows the advertiser no control over the creative or who sees the ad.
Users only see the ad if one of their friends interacts with a brand in some way, so even if a user fills their profile with details of how much they love Rihanna they won’t see a Sponsored Story promoting her songs or album unless one of their friends listens to it first.
The ads also offer limited ability to track the effectiveness of a particular campaign.
Facebook is obviously trialling new ad formats ahead of its IPO and the launch of mobile ads, but advertisers may take convincing before they see the benefit of these Sponsored Story ads.