You’ve no doubt noticed quite a few big changes on Facebook over the last few weeks

You’ve no doubt noticed quite a few big changes on Facebook over the last few weeks. There’s a good chance that you’ve missed a few of the biggest, but potentially most valuable changes because they’re hidden away in the Facebook Ads units. In general, we’re big fans of Facebook ads. They’re relatively cheap. They can target a very specific audience. They supply you with great analytics and Facebook has an absolutely enormous user base. Depending on the project, Facebook ads can really make a huge difference in driving traffic and creating success. So what’s new with Facebook ads? The biggest change is the way they’re displayed. Facebook ads now appear like they’re posts from your friends. They are clearly marked as ads by being labelled “Sponsored”, but physically look much more like a link that your friends have chosen to share with you. The piece of screen real estate that the ads occupy has changed as well. They’re right above the news feed, making them seem even more like shared content from friends. Is this a good thing or a bad thing? Some people will say that it’s a bit shady, having ads appear so similar to what your friends pass around. Then again, if you’re running an ad, you obviously want people to click on it, so the more “friendly” the ad appears, the better results it is likely to get. The social changes to Facebook ads aren’t purely cosmetic though, the ads have become more social in the back end too. The new ads actually interact with the user. For example, if a friend clicks on a certain ad, when you see that ad it will let you know “Your Friend Jane Doe has clicked on this ad.” This is a powerful tool for marketers. Certainly we don’t use, buy or enjoy everything that are friends like or recommend. However, we are much more likely to click an ad to hear a song, watch a video or read a book if a friend enjoys it. Word of mouth and personal recommendations are still the most powerful marketing tools there is, despite the 21st Century social media approach featured here. Letting recommendations from friends creep into the ads provides am enormous amount of added value to a marketing campaign. The targeting and analytics that Facebook provides has always been what makes the ads so effective. You can drill down to a specific group on the network based on their interests, likes, dislikes or just about anything else that is contained in their profile. The next time you begin to create a Facebook ad campaign, it would be a smart move to check out the new Page Insights tool. This lets you find out who is looking at your Facebook Pages, what they’re into and how they engage with your content. This information is invaluable when setting up a marketing campaign on Facebook, or in the larger social media universe. You can finally track what effect the content you post on Facebook is having in a meaningful way. This same data is also being made available through an API, so the possibilities for the analytics obsessed are really limitless. The new changes to Facebook are a giant bonus for anyone working in marketing and social media. While they’re still too fresh to make a final assessment, it isn’t difficult to see that it’s a massive improvement, and will only make creating, targeting and tracking the effectiveness of Facebook as a marketing platform better.

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