Facebook allows Branded Content

Content marketing has had a major boost on Facebook with the announcement that Branded Content, defined as a post that “specifically mentions or features a third party product, brand, or sponsor” is to be allowed on verified pages on the platform.

It’s a very good opportunity to engage in content-led cross-promotion, sponsored content or celebrity/entertainment endorsement. Although to be honest, visibility on this not being allowed before now was somewhat foggy.

Facebook continues to take a dim view of anything that is overly promotional, as anyone who has attempted to put more than 20% text in an ad or boosted post image will be familiar with.

The announcement was made this week on the Facebook Media Blog by Clare Rubin, Product Manager and Nick Grudin, VP of Partnerships at Facebook who said “This update is something that media companies, public figures, influencers, and marketers have been asking for, as branded content is a growing and evolving part of the media landscape… We know that many of our partners have existing partnership deals with marketers, and this update gives them the ability to extend their branded content business onto Facebook.”

One of the most interesting aspects of the update is the introduction of a new Branded Content Tag that will allow page owners to tag a marketer alongside their content. This new tool not only marks the content as promotional, it also gives the marketer direct third party access to data on performance, something that would have previously only been available to the page owner.

It also looks like this gives marketers the ability to promote the branded content independently of the page owner, as well as allowing them to compare multiple sources of data to analyse performance across Facebook.

According to Rubin and Grudin, people “find some types of branded content to be less engaging than others, and this was typically when the content was more promotional. Based on this feedback, our branded content guidelines prohibit overly promotional features, such as persistent watermarks and pre-roll advertisements.”

And I couldn’t agree more. Facebook works best when the page owner is engaging people with content they are genuinely interested in and expect – any form of branded content has to fit into that conversation, not stand out like a sore thumb. The last thing marketing needs is another platform for generic advertising with an instant call-to-action that stands out like a sore thumb, no matter how well-targeted. That would be the antitheses of what social persuasion is all about.

Another restriction is that cover photos and profile pictures will not be allowed to feature third party products, brands, or sponsors. Again this makes sense, and not just from the point of view of it being against the spirit of Facebook to rent your own brand space/identity to someone else – very little actual traffic visits Facebook pages directly, most content and interaction is via feeds not page visits and so this kind of branding would just be window dressing.

Although Facebook has its own policy and guidance on branded content, they also advise marketers to take heed of local laws and guidance on flagging branded content such as those set out by CAP in the UK.

It will be interesting to see who bends the rules on this, and if there is any consumer backlash if it is misused, but built into a clever content partnership strategy and targeted at compatible audiences, it’s a big opportunity for the content marketing world.

Image source: media.fb.com