Think of Facebook's Sponsored Stories, which debuted in January, as a new form of behavioral targeting. Not the type that drops a cookie in a Web browser and then an ad network matches the information in the cookie with an advertisement -- but rather, targeting based on social signals that identify behavior. So, if Sony buys a Sponsored Story ad and a user checks in or "like" (s) the brand, the status update will run in the user's news feed, and again as a paid display ad for the brand.
This happens when friends interact with businesses and organizations on Facebook, stories about their activity are generated in the News Feed.
This is social media behavioral targeting. Twitter relies on a similar type of targeting through Promoted Tweets. But unlike Twitter, which requires the originator of the tweet to authorize its use, Facebook members don't appear to have an easy opt-out option for Sponsored Stories ads. Any directions for privacy settings are buried in the Help Center section.
Facebook notes that only people who can see News Feed stories are eligible to see them as a sponsored story. "While there is no way to opt out of seeing all or being featured in any Sponsored Stores, you can remove specific stories by clicking the "X" displayed in the upper right side of a story and choosing the appropriate option when prompted," according to Facebook.
Recommendations from friends are powerful, but there's already a petition in Facebook to have the site take down the option or at least give members control over what ends up in the Sponsored Stories News Feeds.
Sponsored Stories, and similar platforms, could become the next wave of behavioral targeting apps for social media.