Don’t be misled: Facebook Top Suggestions CANNOT be promoted by Ads (yet)

And you shouldn’t even if you could. Here’s why.

I noticed the layout change in Facebook top suggestions a few weeks ago. AllFacebook reported a similar sighting too. Besides implementing stronger visual appeals, I also noticed how Facebook included a box to urge Page Administrators to promote their Pages. And the first question that came to mind was, “can we now promote our Page to show in Top Suggestions?”

The answer is no. But that’s the easy part.

Here’s the hard part: do you know that Top Suggestions DO appear in the sidebar periodically, and these posts are NOT sponsored?

On the left, you see an example of a Page promoted on the sidebar and these posts usually come after the heading “Sponsored”. On the right, you see “Recommended Pages” and Facebook deem these Pages the ones which you might be interested in, by virtue of its EdgeRank algorithm.


But what’s the problem?


Facebook’s new layout isn’t helping. Understandably, Facebook is trying to encourage Page administrators to promote their Pages more often. But doing so indiscreetly has not helped its cause - positioning this ad beside its Top Suggestions seems to suggest that Page administrators can promote their Pages on Top Suggestions but it’s simply not true. All Facebook Ads are labelled either “sponsored” or “featured”. Thus “Recommended Pages” are technically NOT sponsored. This is also explained in an Adblock post.


Why you shouldn’t promote your Page via Facebook Top Suggestions even if you could

It seems like Facebook is aware that its “Like” button is not very indicative of a user’s behaviour, characteristics, hobbies, and other data close to the user. As much as it might claim that its EdgeRank algorithm takes into account over 1000 variables when showing a post or an ad to a user, users are finding some of the stuff shown increasingly irrelevant and annoying. “Pages you may like” (PYML) and “Similar to ____” make great examples. I often find very irrelevant Page suggestions in these sections. At this moment, Pages are likely to see very low ROI even if they’re allowed to advertise via Facebook Top Suggestions.


Forget such Ads. There’s something else even more exciting for businesses

Facebook’s algorithm relies heavily on user activity on and off Facebook. It obtains most of your off-Facebook activity data via its partners and has a wealth of data. Notably, it has also been reminding users to update their Facebook Profile. Through FBX, it is experimenting with off-site data using retargeting through FBX. All these data are likely aggregated further into its algorithm for it to hyper-target users with only stuff they want to see, including content and ads. But all these are just the tip of the iceberg, because these data are not comprehensive enough to profile a user effectively.

I will be watching Facebook’s development in the mobile space very carefully in both 2014 and 2015. After all, the closest thing that can reliably help businesses hyper-target users and see explosive social ROI is the user’s smartphone. Facebook’s penetration deep into big data will likely bear fruits if its able to get and fiddle with users’ data on their mobile phone. The mobile smartphone, as much as we deny, is by far the closest thing to everyone’s life, and the way we use it - the games we play, apps we use, messages we type, people we contact, places we go to, pictures we take - will help Facebook or any data-focused company building the next most effective marketing tool.

Don’t miss a thing. Free updates by email.

* indicates required

Sign up to get access

One email per month to share with you my latest findings from Facebook ads tests