Facebook has opened up Marketplace to paid advertising for the first time. The program, which launched under the radar in January, has had no promotion other than a couple of “how to” pages in the Facebook Advertiser Help section of the site. But the move is a nevertheless dramatic leap for Marketplace, Facebook’s rapidly expanding general classified business.

Not only does it put Facebook Marketplace on a functional par with apps like OfferUp and Letgo, which already offer their own options for paid premium placement (OfferUp calls it “bumping”) but, given Facebook’s vast social reach, the addition of advertising into Marketplace is a cross-network play not limited to just classifieds.

Facebook spokesperson Mike Manning (LinkedIn profile) made that clear in an exclusive interview with the AIM Group. “You can’t run ads just in Marketplace,” he told us. Rather it’s about “extending a campaign that starts in News Feed as an additional placement, in the same way you can extend an ad to appear on Instagram.”

That’s significant: it essentially allows sellers to think and act multilaterally. Not only can an advertiser extend from News Feed into Marketplace, but a seller who has in the past only thought about using Marketplace to offer items for free now has an easy pass to promote products across Facebook as a whole.

Since Marketplace ads must start in Facebook’s Ad Manager, there are some rules for what can appear in Marketplace. Advertisers must choose either the traffic, conversions or catalog sales “objectives” in Ad Manager. If traffic or conversions is chosen, the advertiser’s Facebook business page must also have a “Shop Now” button on it.

“We’re targeting the types of advertisers we think would be most interested,” Manning said — that is, businesses selling products. “It could be interesting for a brand advertiser too, but for now, these are the ads we think would be more successful as a starting point.

Single and carousel format ads can both be used, but not videos yet. Facebook is encouraging advertisers to use its Automatic Placements option which decides where the ad will get the best response. While an advertiser can choose to manually limit placements to specific demographics and locations, “an ad campaign must include News Feed to also appear in Marketplace,” Facebook stresses.

There are other limitations: ads only appear on mobile phones, are only available for U.S. based advertisers, and only Facebook users in the U.S. will see them.

We asked Manning why the new service was not yet on the desktop version of Marketplace. It’s a matter of layout, he told the AIM Group. On mobile devices, Marketplace items are displayed in a two-by-two format. (On the desktop, it can be up to four items across.) Paid ads “go across the whole screen of the phone as a standalone. It’s more of a distinct unit,” Manning explained.

That contrasts with how Facebook has been testing advertising in Marketplace up to now. That program, which we wrote about in November 2016, and which ran during most of 2017, was with “a few select partners working with us who agreed to let us extend the placement of their existing dynamic ads from News Feed into Marketplace,” Manning said. “The ads units were reformatted [i.e., shrunk] so they would fit in the space available in the Marketplace feed.”

The advertisers in the test, Manning pointed out, “were not paying for their placements.” Now, however, any advertiser in the United States can pay for a properly formatted Marketplace ad.

Facebook Marketplace is currently live in 58 countries although it may take a while for paid ads to be available outside the U.S. Manning didn’t have a timetable. “This is an exploratory phase. Depending on what we see, we’ll decide whether we expand the program,” he said.

Does Facebook have any metrics on how advertising in Marketplace is doing? “It’s still really early,” Manning said. “So we have nothing to share. We haven’t marketed it heavily, we’re rolling it out slowly, seeing if it’s working for advertisers and if users are OK with it.”

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