Facebook is testing a new feature with a select group of marketers that will allow users to share offsite ads on Facebook, Mashable has learned.
Traditionally, marketers and advertisers have had to purchase ad units or Sponsored Stories within the Facebook ad platform. The new unit, however, allows marketers to make advertisements that aren't on Facebook shareable through Facebook's Open Graph.
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We discovered this new unit after seeing "Featured Partner" post on BuzzFeed.com for Hidden Valley Ranch. Unlike BuzzFeed's other featured partner posts, this one had a Facebook Share button.
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Clicking that button brings up a new dialog box that sports a "via Hidden Valley Ranch on BuzzFeed" label in the origin spot. This is different from BuzzFeed's other featured content, which shares directly from BuzzFeed's standard Open Graph share implementation.
When we reached out to BuzzFeed for some clarification on the matter, they pointed us at Facebook, who confirmed that the company is testing a feature that allows offsite ads to be shared on Facebook. It isn't clear how big this test is or how many partners are involved.
Historically, sharing ad units directly to Facebook using the Open Graph has been against Facebook's Terms of Service, which makes this new unit test all the more interesting. It's possible that Facebook is looking for ways to work with advertisers to bring offsite content back to Facebook, without it existing in the traditional ad unit.
To us, it makes total sense that Facebook would choose BuzzFeed as one of the partners to test this new type of ad unit. At Internet Week New York, BuzzFeed told us that about half of their mobile traffic comes directly from Facebook.
One of BuzzFeed's main revenue drivers is creating shareable content for brands. BuzzFeed's team will work with a brand -- such as Hidden Valley Ranch -- in order to create content that can go viral and appeal to the BuzzFeeddemographic. BuzzFeed's big sales pitch to these brands is that its users avidly share content and are seen as tastemakers. This new type of sharing unit -- which is accessible directly from the homepage and doesn't require users to click on another link -- should help make sharing that much easier for users.
The shared unit looks like any other shared piece of Facebook content, but because it comes from an app -- in this case, an app BuzzFeed created for Hidden Valley Ranch -- it lacks the "reshare" button on Facebook itself. Other users can like or comment on the content, but if they want to share it, they must go to the main site and hit share. Again, this helps draw Facebook traffic back to the original advertising source.
This isn't a new concept -- social platforms have been trying their hand at offering more social ad units for quite some time. Google started putting +1 buttons on select display ads back in October, in a bid to help change the way users view advertising. Digg tried its hand at "Diggable" banner ads back in 2010.
The difference in this instance is that the inventory isn't coming from Facebook, it's coming from the marketing partners. We're interested to see where Facebook goes with these types of units because the implications for marketers -- especially in the branded content space -- are vast.
Let us know what you think of these new types of share units in the comments.
This story originally published on Mashable here.