Facebook Sponsored Post Detection

What is a sponsored post?

A sponsored post is if the Facebook page spent money to promote or boost the specific post into users newsfeeds.

Why are there sponsored posts?

Using sponsored posts is a clever way to receive more visibility - but you need to be willing to invest money. By sponsoring a post, you can make sure the post is seen by a lot of users.  Facebook offers two ways: boosting an already existing post via a quick click, or promoting an existing or new post using the ads manager. If you create a new post directly from the Ads Manager, this is considered a dark post. This includes using specific targeting options to reach the right users. You can target by locations, age, gender and selected interests, or even re-target people who have been on specific pages on your website by using a Facebook Pixel. Below you can find the differences between Facebook’s boosting function and promoting a post.

Using the quick boost button

You can choose to either push the post to people who like your page and their friends or people you want to target by simply clicking the button directly at the bottom of the post. You can choose a budget and then it will show you an estimate of people it will reach. It is possible that your fans’ friends are not interested, so in most cases it is more useful to use targeting. You can target via location, age, gender and selected interests.

Using the Ads Manager

You can promote an existing post using the Ads Manager (sponsored post) or create a new one (dark post). By doing this, you have a lot more targeting and pricing options. This includes choosing cost per click or a particular amount of money per day. If you choose to create a dark post, it doesn't appear on your page's timeline. Rather, it uses the structure of a promoted post but will never be seen organically. You cannot track dark posts in quintly, as this information is private. Promoting a post through the ads manager has no disadvantages but it takes a bit longer. Once you decide to invest more money and find a strategy on how to be cost effective, the Facebook Ad Manager is more suitable in this case.

What sponsored post metrics are in quintly?

In our Facebook metrics we have two widgets with 'Sponsored Posts Detection' data. You can find it in the ‘Own Post Table’ and the ‘Sponsored Post Distribution’ chart. This data is imported directly from the Facebook public datasource. This metric is useful for our clients who are tracking competitors as it gives them an insight whether they are organic (unpaid) or sponsored (paid) posts.

How does quintly detect if a post is sponsored or not?

Since the information about whether a post is sponsored or not is part of the private Facebook Insights metrics and cannot be accessed publicly, we use a machine learning based approach that can find out if a certain post is sponsored or not without the need for admin rights. Our current accuracy rate is 94%, however this accuracy is always changing when the machine learning model is updated.

Our machine learning uses a special algorithm that was designed by our engineers called supported vector machine. It is not a static algorithm, yet we are regularly training the system with paid posts so that it can learn how to classify new content. It then analyzes the sponsored posts and how many reactions, comments, shares etc. it has to find a pattern relating these figures to whether the corresponding post has been sponsored or not. Our machine then computes a likelihood if the post within the public level is sponsored or not.

In the Own Post table below you can see the column ‘Sponsored?’ with either not yet tagged, highly unlikely or highly likely. The colours red and green also provide a visual and easy way to determine if likely to be sponsored or not.

Below is the Sponsored Post Distribution chart, which you can hover over to see the percent and total number.

Why is it good to analyze this data?

It is useful to analyze this data to compare against competitors in your industry. Organic reach is declining in Facebook newsfeeds, therefore it becomes increasingly important to look at advertising strategies to keep your content high up in the newsfeeds. When comparing with your competitor, it is essential to understand what share of content has been sponsored and which content your competition is promoting, so that you really have a meaningful comparison in order to optimize being one step ahead of your competition.

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