** Originally published April 29, 2016 ** Updated: May 23, 2017 **
The updated Facebook Branded Content Policy first impacted celebrities and brands (April 2016), but has finally trickled down to bloggers as we assumed it would.
The good news… bloggers no longer need to strive towards being a verified page.
The bad news… all sponsored or influenced content must be tagged using the “handshake” tool and using it incorrectly (or not using the handshake at all) may get you in trouble.
When the Branded Content Policy was first changed in 2016, I was stunned to learn that I had been violating rules for promoting sponsors.
Reports by The Drum state, “Previously, publishers running branded content on Facebook was completely against the rules, unless they received approval directly from the social network.”
And in case you were in doubt, the erroneous use of Facebook to promote other brands was also called out on Ad Age:
Facebook has long prohibited publishers, celebrities and influencers from taking advantage of its vast platform to post branded content on their pages, unless it was part of a paid ad campaign on Facebook.
Then, Facebook got hard-nosed about the policy and required celebrities and brands to be 1) blue verified and 2) use the “handshake” tool to tag sponsors.
Explaining the new Facebook Branded Content Policy
Let’s take the current policy (2017) line-by-line as it reads and compare it to the previous update (2016), making careful and deliberate decisions NOT to find a loophole but to understand what it says.
The 2016 policy opened with:
Branded content on Pages is only allowed from Verified Pages (with the blue badge) on Facebook and must adhere to the following policies.
Emphasis on the words only, verified pages, and blue badge are mine.
The 2017 updated policy reads:
Branded Content may only be posted by profiles and Pages with access to the Branded Content tool.
Again, emphasis is mine.
The change deemphasized the focus on verified (blue badge) pages and created a sweeping and inclusive environment for ALL profiles and pages who have the “handshake” tool available.
But what is “branded content”?
The next sentence of the 2016 update stated:
Branded content on Pages is defined as content originating from a Page owner that features third party products, brands, or sponsors that are different from the Page owner.
The 2017 policy says:
We define branded content as a creator or publisher’s content that features or is influenced by a business partner for an exchange of value.
What does “features” or “is influenced by” mean in terms of posting content to Facebook? Simply phrased, this includes any status update, video, photo, or live broadcast where you were asked to use a product or mention a product/page.
An example scenario (according to my understanding of this statement) would be if I, as the owner and content creator for MeetPenny.com, mention any other product, brand, sponsor, etc. from any source other than my blog where I have received ANY form of compensation, including but not limited to:
- product in exchange for a review/promotion (as the product has value);
- promotion in exchange for review/promotion (as the promotion has value); and
- payment in exchange for review/promotion (as the payment certainly has value).
The term “exchange of value” will be interpreted differently by many – and perhaps I am drawing extreme conclusions – but the fact is, this is a very broad statement that can be used to include anything Facebook decides is value.
It’s their contract. Their jargon. Their rules.
Using the Branded Content Tool
The “branded content tool” is represented in the Facebook page composer on desktop and iOS, the Marketing API, and the Mentions app on iOS as a handshake icon. In the Ads Manager and Power Editor, the “Sponsor” field in available under the Advanced Options section.
Tagging branded content is required for photos, videos, links, text, Instant Articles, and 360 videos at launch. Eventually, live videos will also have the branded tool functionality and will require branded content to be tagged.
However, some content will not be allowed even WITH tagging:
The following types of branded content integrations are prohibited:
A. Within videos:
- Pre, mid, or post roll ads.
- Content that features third party products, brands, or sponsors located at the beginning (within first three seconds) or persistently (over three seconds) throughout the video, including but not limited to the following types of branded content:
- Title cards featuring the sponsor; or
- Graphical overlay and watermarks.B. Within photos (including link preview images):
- Banner ads featuring third party products, brands, or sponsors.C. Third party products, brands, or sponsors featured within cover photos or profile pictures.
So… what IS allowed?
A. Promotions (Please refer to section III. E. of the Pages Terms);B. Videos or photos featuring third party products, brands, or sponsors that differ from the Page;C. Endcards;D. Product placement;E. Sponsor’s logos (Aside from ad elements and from any third-party logos which are displayed within video by virtue of having been recorded during the filming of the video subject matter (e.g. in stadium signage); orF. Posts that clearly disclose the content is sponsored or provided by a third party.
Why would Facebook do this?
According to VentureBeat, the purpose is to supply brands with more insights about their reach.
When a branded post is published, the marketer will receive a notification, and they will be given insights into how the post is performing — this includes clicks, reach, engagement, and so on. Then Facebook will offer the marketer further tools to promote the post, which then opens up more opportunities for Facebook to earn from the initiative.
If an influencer pays to boost a post, the tagged brand will also have the ability to see those insights and will be notified if the post is shared or boosted.
Apparently, the advertising will also shift on Facebook to allow brands to align sidebar advertising with page updates in which they are tagged.
How does this impact bloggers?
If you are feeling confused and wondering how this will change your approach to Facebook, you are not alone.
Cathy Hackl (@CathyHackl), social media expert and consultant, says:
Facebook’s new branded content policy seems straightforward at first glance, but I think it still leaves bloggers with lots of questions. I foresee lots of posts getting deleted or accounts flagged because there are always gray areas.
How to get the Facebook Verified Blue Badge
Unfortunately, you cannot be verified as a “blogger” right now.
Due to a backlog of work, Facebook is only verifying pages for celebrities, public figures, sports teams, media and entertainment.
But, if you think about it, as a blogger you could choose Author or Public Figure. [See how to declare “public figure” and use the Mentions app to be verified.]
How to change your category
You can easily change your Facebook category.
- Visit your Facebook page from your desktop.
- Scroll down to the About box.
- Hover over the upper right corner until the pencil icon appear. Click to Edit.
- Page info will appear. Hover over the right side of the category and click to Edit.
- Select People from the drop down menu and then the subcategory.
- Click to Save Changes.
How to apply for verification
Once you have selected a category that can be verified, you can request to be verified.
You will need to provide Facebook with some personal identification, such as a driver’s license, passport, or birth certificate.
But do not apply for verification immediately.
The verification process has several mysterious checkboxes to which we do not know the extent. However, some details have been shown to speed up the process and increase success:
- Have your picture in the cover or as your page’s profile picture.
- Include a lot of information in the biographical area of your profile.
- Encourage personal pages and unbranded pages to tag your blog’s page.
- Post content from your blog regularly.
- Pay to boost a post linking to your page or product.
Questions about the Facebook Branded Content Policy
If I am not a verified (blue badge) page, must I use the handshake?
Yes. If you have access to the “handshake” tool, you must use it for tagging brands and being a verified page is no longer relevant.
What’s the benefit in verifying your business page?
Supposedly, verified pages are ranked higher in the Facebook algorithm. They also receive the benefit of new tools before other types of pages.
Also, if a brand is wanting to access these analytics, they *might* seek out pages who have verification.
Is a gray badge the same as a blue badge?
No. Gray badged pages will not qualify for using the branded content tool. [Read more about the different colored badges.]
Do you still need to disclose sponsored content if you are NOT verified?
Yes. According to the Federal Trade Commission, you must disclose when you are being paid to represent content on your blog or on your social media platforms.
Facebook asks for a phone number. Can I just use my cell phone number if I don’t have a dedicated business phone?
Since many businesses use a cell phone for their business phone, I do not think this will be a problem but cannot be 100% certain.
If you are not blue badge verified, are you not allowed to have a brand partnership?
You may create partnerships with brands. However, how you mention them on Facebook will be impacted. You may not share from a brand’s blog or website on Facebook without using the “handshake” tool. However, you can include mentions of a brand within your post and share the post to Facebook.
Can I share from other bloggers if they are not branded?
You are safe to share content from another blogger as long as the content is not branded.