Authenticity is a big factor in marketing and advertising, even more so in the age of the internet. With so many ways to create and share content through social media, it’s a continuous battle to ensure that business owners or marketers aren’t trying to trick consumers about the source of their content. To this end, Facebook has recently changed its guidelines for how marketers use the Branded Content Tool in the ad creator.
In some ways, the term “Branded Content” is overly vague and may be too obtuse to be useful for everyday people. This led to situations where people who didn’t need to mark their content as branded did so anyway, and pages that needed to declare their ad content as branded weren’t. So the first step was for Facebook to clarify what was meant by the policy.
Just because a video or image based ad features the name of the brand being advertised doesn’t mean that it’s Branded Content. Rather, this is more about declaring where page owners were paid (or in some other way compensated) for creating content about a brand. A good example of this would be a food reviewer promoting a video where they try a product that they were paid to review. Since the brand compensated the reviewer (even if only by freely giving the products for review), the content the reviewer created is treated as content created by the brand.
All content creators who are using branded content (i.e. influencers) must use the tool according to Facebook.
“Branded content may only be posted by Instagram accounts or profiles and Pages with access to the branded content tool,” the company explained. “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. When posting branded content, use the branded content tool to tag the featured third party product, brand, or business partner.”
This may all sound like pointless gibberish, but these distinctions have meaningful implications for the law and for Facebook. Because of the way that branded content can influence consumers, it’s important to make this type of content as fair as traditional ads. So if TV ads have to label in small print that someone is a “paid spokesperson” or doing an “actor portrayal” of events, then online ads and marketing have to do so as well.
However, Facebook has introduced some changes to ensure the tool is being used properly. Since using the branded content tool is the only way to boost certain kinds of content, losing access to it would be hugely detrimental to influencers.
Facebook Pages and profiles and Instagram accounts with access to the branded content tool must comply with the following or face losing access to the tool:
1. Don’t include pre, mid, or post-roll ads in videos or audio content.
2. Don’t include banner ads in videos or images.
3. Don’t include title cards within a video’s first three seconds. Interstitial ad cards outside of a video’s first three seconds, such as mid cards or end cards, must not persist for longer than three consecutive seconds and must not be included within Facebook Stories or Instagram Stories.
4. Show Pages must not include branded content in showmarks or trailer videos.
5. Don’t use the branded content tool to tag a Page, brand or business partner without their prior consent.
6. Don’t accept anything of value to post content that you did not create or were not involved in the creation of, or that does not feature you.
7. Comply with all applicable laws and regulations, including by ensuring that you provide all necessary disclosures to people using Facebook or Instagram, such as any disclosures needed to indicate the commercial nature of content posted by you.
While this applies mostly to the page owners publishing the branded content, it’s important for business owners and marketers know the rules so they aren’t asking content creators to do things that violate Facebook policies.
For more recent news about online marketing, read this article on recent changes to Facebook’s news feed algorithm.