Facebook is making waves in the online business world with it's April 26, 2016 update to it's branded content policy.
Facebook Branded Content Update is making headlines
Facebook defines branded content as
any post — including text, photos, videos, Instant Articles, links, 360 videos, and Live videos — that features a third party product, brand, or sponsor. It is typically posted by media companies, celebrities, or other influencers.
and branded content on pages as: content originating from the Page owner that features third party products, brands, or sponsors that are different from the Page owner.
The Branded Content Policies
As it stands currently (April 28th) the policy language states that branded content on pages is “only allowed from Verified Pages (with the blue badge)” and that they must also follow very specific guidelines.
What this means in black and white
- ONLY pages that are verified (with the blue badge) are allowed to post anything for anyone else (whether or not you've been paid to do so).
- If you are a verified (with the blue badge) page, you may ONLY post branded (sponsored) content when it meets the Facebook requirements.
- If you are a verified (with the blue badge) page, and you do post branded content, and tag the owner appropriately, the owner will be notified of your post, have access to all the stats of your post, have the ability to share your post to their page, and pay to boost your post. They will not be able to edit or delete your post.
What does this mean for bloggers and business owners who use Facebook to spread the word?
- If your page is not verified (with the blue badge) you MAY post links to your website, your own self-created products, or images of your own branded logo/products. But you MAY NOT post any info about, links to or pictures of anyone else's posts, logos or products. That means, no affiliate links, or ad images at all on your Page. To get around this, you will have to 1. share (using the share button) someone's else's post to your page, or 2. link to an article on your website where the promotion of that brand or product can be found. However, if you have Facebook Instant Articles installed, the second option could also be problematic as Facebook also has strict rules about what may and may not be in your post when it feeds to Facebook Instant Articles. More about Instant Articles here.
- If you are a verified (with the blue badge) you, and anyone who posts to Facebook for you, need to become very familiar with the Facebook requirements for approved branded content. Read them in full here.
- Part of complying with the new regulation is tagging the brand you are promoting using the new “buddy” tool. You can only tag one brand per branded content post. Be very sure that you can provide what you promise in Facebook promotion because the brand will have a way to see all you are doing whether you like it or not. What they don't say (yet) is that this also sets up Facebook to be able to charge the owner of the 3rd party content because you promoted them.
[Tweet “Facebook has changed the rules about branded content. Get the scoop here!”]
Further Questions and Answers
Q: Does this really apply to me?
A: If you own a facebook page, yes, it applies to you.
Q: How do I verify my page on Facebook?
A. If your page is not yet verified on Facebook, and you'd like it to be, this post outlines how to request verification. or you can download the free printable checklist at the end of the post.
4/29/16 edited to add a quote from a chat with Facebook Rep:
We’re (Facebook) only accepting verification requests from Pages that represent celebrities, public figures, sports teams, media and entertainment. Our Pages Team is extremely backed up with Brand Requests at the moment and need some time to catch up, that is why we are unable to accept them at the moment.
Q: How do I post branded content on Facebook?
A: If your page is blue verified, just like you click the camera to add an image to a Facebook post, you'll be able to (and be required to) click the handshake icon to tag the brand you're promoting (this ONLY applies for blue verified checkmarked pages.)
If you're not blue verified, you're not allowed to promote anything that is not your own content, per their current wording, and you also will not see the “buddy” icon. Unverified pages MAY still purchase ads from Facebook.
Q: (updated 4/29) What if I am grey verified? What is the difference?
A: Per another Facebook Rep: blue is for a public figure and grey is for a business. You can't get a blue unless you are a public figure. You need blue verification to post sponsored content. Grey just rolled out to separate the two. Pages with the grey check do not have access to the Branded Content button and features.
Q: If I want to share a friend's post (no money or affiliate links involved, I just love her stuff or found it encouraging), can I?
A: Technically, if you enjoyed an inspirational piece that you read and wanted to share it with your follwers by posting the URL and a comment on your blog page, you would need to disclose and tag the source of that article and it is 3rd party because it's not content owned by you. Using the share button to share her content from her page to yours is acceptable.
(updated 4/29/16 to add) However, if you've applied for verification one Rep has said that you may “share branded content on a non-verified page” while you await verification. (I assume this means share by using the share button).
What concerns me then is that Facebook has the potential power then go to that blog owner and say “Katie promoted your post and x0,000 people saw it, so you owe us $x00.00 for advertising on our platform.” Even though the 3rd party did not ask for, or pay you to promote them.
Q: What is Facebook's reasoning behind this?
A: Well, they haven't included me in the board meetings or strategy meetings, and I'm not very good at mind reading, but if I had to speculate….
(updated 4/30) Posting content that you do not own to your facebook account (including to profile, page, event and/or groups) is a violation of the Terms of Service (TOS) you agreed to when you opened your account. (See TOS here). Facebook has not been enforcing this policy, but appears to have decided to do so from here on out.
It appears that Facebook is tired of not being able to control the small bloggers and small companies whose posts are becoming more ad-ish, and they also don't like to not be compensated for the promotions those bloggers do using their platform. It also appears that this was their intention all along. Ads may be used to promote content not your own, but posts of content you don't own are not allowed.
By prohibiting unverified pages to post branded content and/or prohibiting your page from getting verified, Facebook is denying you permission to post any ads at all, clearing out A LOT of ads that were previously being shown to Facebook's audience. Now, Facebook may only allow pages to be verifyied (and I am speculating here) if the page works with larger BIG companies who have more Facebook friendly advertising budgets or who already have advertising accounts with Facebook making it easier to charge the brand when someone promotes the brand. In my opinion, this is Facebook's way of broadcasting the message that if it's anything but purely social chit chat, someone is going to pay for it to be shown on their platform.
Another blogger mentioned that she tried to verify her page today, submitted documents of proof of business, etc, and was denied without explanation and simply told to “reapply for verification in 30 days”… I believe this supports the above speculation that Facebook only wants to play with companies with big bucks to advertise on their platform. If Facebook can track that your promotion of a brand gets x0,000 reach, they can charge the brand for the exposure the brand initially paid you to give. Smaller affiliate companies will not be able to do this/pay this, or just won't pay for it, and so by not allowing you to be verified and therefore not allowing you to post sponsored content at all, Facebook controls more of whose ads are showing.
Q: Will my Facebook post get seen at all if I don't verify my page?
A: I can't say for sure, but it doesn't appear that Facebook plans to show anyone's posts at all, unless you pay. I get the feeling that if you're self promoting only, they may leave you alone, and you'll just be left to organic luck. But if you want to be seen or if you want to continue to promote others – someone's going to pay for that and this is Facebook's way of enforcing it.
There is no current information on what will happen if an unverified page continues to promote 3rd party content. You can assume if you're not compliant and the review team finally reaches your page, they are capable of just turn off views for your page altogether. I can't imagine they will have the manpower to monitor individual posts from thousands of bloggers daily, but it would be very easy to simply shut you down for non compliance to their stated policy.
Q: Does this affect my personal profile, my groups or my events?
A: (Update 4/30/16)The Branded Content Policy does not mention personal profiles, groups or events. However, the policy for your account states that you agree not to post content you do not own to your Facebook account, which would then include Facebook groups, events, pages and profile.
Facebook is it's own business, and makes it's decisions based on what is good for Facebook. You own your business and must make decisions based on what it good for your business.
If you've been doing smart business to this point and not putting all your eggs in one basket, you will realize that this is not the end of the world. There are other platforms to work with: Twitter, Instagram, SnapChat, Pinterest, Facebook Groups, YouTube…
You have a choice to make: play by the rules, or choose not to play. What are your thoughts on this? Do you welcome the update in policy? Why? or Why not? What other strategies do you have in mind to make up for it?
Other Links of Interest
- Are Facebook's Terms of Service Misleading?
- What is Facebook Instant Articles?
- Facebook's Ads policy
- Facebooks Branded Content policy
- How to use the Branded Content tool
- How to verify your Facebook page
- Join our Free Facebook Community for bloggers and online business owners