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What’s the Difference Between Facebook Ads and Sponsored Stories?

James Parsons • Updated on October 23, 2023
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There are a number of different types of posts used for advertising on Facebook. Two of the most common, and most important, are the basic Facebook Ads and the organic Sponsored Stories. What’s the difference between the two, and how should you make use of each?

Facebook Ads

Facebook ads come in two primary varieties. These are marketplace ads and page post ads. Marketplace ads are the simplest to understand, so those first.

Marketplace ads are exactly what you think of when you think about ads on a website. They appear in the sidebar and they include a title, an image and some text. They can lead to a landing page of your choosing, on or off of Facebook itself. They can even point directly to a Facebook app. They are the only type of ads that make use of the Facebook Audience Network and FBX. They can be very effective, but they are also very basic and susceptible to adblockers.

Page post ads are a little more interesting. These ads take the form of a typical post on your Facebook page. A normal post on your fan page is visible to a selection of your fans on their feed, those determined by their high engagement with the page in question. A page post ad, however, gains a second life through a paid promotion. This opens it up to be viewed by all of your fans, as well as their friends. It can even show up in the sidebar along with marketplace ads.

Page post ads can be anything that is normally contained in a post. You don’t get a headline, but you get a wider range of content, including links, videos, photos and more text than a marketplace ad allows. They also reach a very wide audience and are less frequently blocked than marketplace ads.

One of the primary benefits of page post ads is the ability to use them to promote events, offers and other such engagement boosters. Unfortunately, they aren’t as useful for bringing in new followers. Many users, if they see a post from a brand the don’t follow, will skip over the post or view it as an intrusion into their feed. You will be able to get some new engagement, but not as much as some other forms of ads.

If you’re not sure where to find the option for page post ads in Facebook’s interface, don’t worry; they have mostly been rebranded into promoted posts. There is technically a slight difference between the two, but generally promoted posts are more modern and relevant. These also originate as a post on your page, but you are able to promote them directly rather than jump through hoops in the ad interface.

Promoted posts are also limited in that they don’t appear for unrelated users. By default, they only appear to your fans, though you can set them to appear to friends of fans as well. This limitation is beneficial for certain types of posts; you don’t want to broadcast an event you want to limit to fans only, after all.

Sponsored-StoriesPromoted posts sure sounds a lot like sponsored stories, doesn’t it? Sponsored stories are different still. Rather than promoting a post of your own, a sponsored story promotes something one of your users has done. By using part of your traffic from an app, a sponsored story promotes actual user interaction as a way to broaden your exposure.

Confused? Consider the most basic form of sponsored story. A user likes your page. That action, of a user liking your page, is broadcast to that user’s feed. The information in that post broadcast is compiled from the action and your page picture, as well as an indicator of the number of likes your page has.

So what’s the point? If it’s based on user interaction and you don’t generate the content, what good is it for advertising? Well, it’s not entirely useless. You’re able to select the interactions that are made into sponsored stories. Page likes are the most basic, but you can select nearly any interaction that’s monitored with the open graph. This can include claimed offers, app uses and other actions. You are also able to sponsor a broadcast for when a user shares a link from your domain, assuming that domain is linked to Facebook.

Again, what’s the point? A sponsored story has one goal; to let the friends of a user know that they took that action and encourage them to join the bandwagon. It’s entirely meant to drive users into performing the action you’re sponsoring. It’s often used for likes, of course, and various contest entries.

Using Both

With each type of Facebook marketing technique, you have a number of options depending on your budget and your goals.

  • If you want to bring new users to your page, those who are completely unrelated to your page already, you only have one option; marketplace ads. No other ad displays for users completely outside of your circle of influence, at least not with any reasonable rate of return.
  • If you want to share posts you’ve made of particular importance, you should use a promoted post or a page post ad. Which one you choose depends on the exact audience you want to reach. If you want the post limited to just your fans, a promoted post is ideal. If you’re intending to share the post beyond your fans and into their friends, a page post ad fits the bill perfectly.
  • If you’re running a contest or trying to build engagement with your page, sponsor that story. This causes the action to show up in the feeds of the friends of the person who took the action, enticing them to do it as well. This effect can cascade through multiple degrees of separation from your page, further broadening your circle of influence.

A savvy marketer will make use of all of these types of ads. Each has its own purpose, and none of them contradicts each other. Determine a goal and use that goal to determine which type of ad best fits the purpose. Experiment with the differences between them to determine the best fit for a given ad, if you can’t decide.


  1. jeff parker


    thanks for clearing this up. which do you recommend for a supplement company advertising??

    • Boostlikes


      Hi Jeff, ultimately it comes down to the type of exposure you want, they are apples and oranges. More people are “ad blind” to Facebook ads than they are sponsored stories, so many people suggest sponsored stories are the way to go. Hope this helps!

    • Boostlikes


      Hi Jeff, ultimately it comes down to the type of exposure you want, they are apples and oranges. More people are “ad blind” to Facebook ads than they are sponsored stories, so many people suggest sponsored stories are the way to go. Hope this helps!

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