Looks like Facebook has been digging into the annals of social commerce history for inspiration for its new product, Sponsored Stories – user-generated advertorial ad units (Facebook version of Promoted Tweets).  When VC David Beisel (Venrock) originally defined social commerce back in December, 2005, he defined social commerce as user-generated advertorial content
“For me, I view social commerce as one subset of “advertorial content,” where content is the advertising…And when this advertorial content is generated by a friend”
Facebook Sponsored Stories is the implementation of David Biesel’s vision of social commerce – user-generated advertorial content.
With Sponsored Stories, brands and retailers can now pay Facebook to promote user actions relevant to their brand (check-ins, recommendations, likes etc) to the friends of the user in special advertorial ad units in the Facebook page ad column.  In tests, these new user-generated advertorial ad units increased both recall and propensity to recommend for promoted brands.  Which stands to reason, as they are effectively word of mouth recommendations – more trustworthy, personal and influential than ad copy.  Coke, Levi’s, Anheuser Busch and Playfish are signing up to use Sponsored Stories, as are non-profits such as Amnesty International and (RED).
Of course, the real opportunity for brands and retailers will be when Facebook roll up Sponsored Stories into a Social Plugin so that these word of mouth recommendations can be embedded on onsite e-commerce pages to drive product discovery and choice.  They could also be useful for driving sales on Facebook stores. Perhaps Facebook will wait for the inevitable outcry around privacy (yes, Sponsored Stories are ‘SS ads’, with all the connotations that the initials imply, but this is no Beacon) before developing further.
Check out the Apple Facebook promotional video (looks so like an iGizmo ad) and the FAQ below.
Here’s the official skinny on Facebook Sponsored Stories and a link to more commentary from Mashable

  • What are Sponsored Stories? Sponsored Stories are word-of-mouth recommendations about brands that come from your News Feed. Examples of the types of stories that can be surfaced in Sponsored Stories include: Page Likes, Page posts, app interactions and Place check-ins. For example, if your friends like a Page, in addition to seeing that story in your News Feed, you may see the same story on the right-hand column on Facebook.
  • Why am I seeing Sponsored Stories (e.g. Pages my friends like, Places where my friends check in) on the right hand column on Facebook? When your friends interact with businesses and organizations on Facebook (e.g., when they like an organization’s Page or check-in to a business), stories about their activity are generated in your News Feed. When the same stories appear again as Sponsored Stories it’s more likely that you’ll learn about the things your friends like.
  • Who can see Sponsored Stories about me (e.g. Pages I like, Places where I check in)? News Feed stories that appear as Sponsored Stories respect applicable privacy settings. Therefore, only people who are eligible to see your News Feed story are eligible to see it as as Sponsored Story.
    • For example
      • Jane’s privacy settings allow her friends to see News Feed stories about Pages she likes.
      • Jane likes the Starbucks Page.
      • Jane’s friend John can see a story about Jane liking the Starbucks Page in News Feed.
      • Because of this, John may see the same story on the right hand side of pages on Facebook
  • How are specific Sponsored Stories chosen for me? Whether or not you see a specific Sponsored Stories depends on whether or not a friend of yours has connected with a business that would like to promote stories. For example, if your friend likes the Starbucks Page and a story about it is published in your News Feed, you may see a Sponsored Story about it if Starbucks has opted to promote it.
  • What types of News Feed stories can appear as Sponsored Stories? You may see Sponsored Stories based on stories from your News Feed, including Page likes, app uses, Place check-ins and Page posts.
  • Can I opt out of seeing or being featured in sponsored News Feed stories? While there is no way to opt out of seeing all or being featured in any Sponsored Stories, 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. Sponsored Stories that feature news about the actions your friends have taken on Facebook respect applicable privacy settings. Therefore, only people who are eligible to see your News Feed story are eligible to see it as as Sponsored Story.
  • How are Sponsored Stories different from Facebook Ads? Sponsored Stories are word-of-mouth recommendations that come from your News Feed. The types of stories that can be surfaced include: Page Likes, app interactions, Place check-ins and Page posts.  Unlike Sponsored Stories, Facebook Ads contain custom messages from advertisers regardless of whether you or your friends have made a connection to that advertiser. They are sometimes paired with news about social actions your friends have taken (such as liking a Page or RSVPing to an event).