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3 Blogger Monetisation Lessons from Facebook’s Branded Content Policy Update

Posted By Laney Galligan 4th of May 2016 Blogging for Dollars, Social Media 19

3 blogger monetisation lessons from FB branded content policy

So apparently the (Facebook blue) sky fell and then picked itself back up again, but not before everyone went completely bananas over yet another policy update.

It doesn’t really matter what the policy update is this time (although we’ll get to that, and key lessons, soon). The more interesting thing to ponder is why does everyone go bananas?  It’s because anyone with an investment of time and content in a Facebook page is essentially on ‘rented’ space, and Facebook has all the control

So, when Facebook changes the game we all cry foul, insist on how unfair it is, and despair in how the platform (which we didn’t build or actually pay rent to use), is impacting on our livelihoods.

Lesson #1: Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.
It’s the golden rule of blog monetisation – diversification of risk. You don’t own social, but you can own an email list.

For more articles and ProBlogger advice see:

In reality, many Facebook page owners could be considered mere squatters, using Facebook property for our own gain and not generating any revenue for the platform (surely not?!).

Sounds a bit extreme (and yes, there are ways your content and the eyeball it brings indirectly benefits Facebook), but that’s exactly what many pages have been doing, and up until now, Facebook has been turning a blind eye.

This time the kerfuffle is around the topic of “branded content”, specifically who can post it and under what conditions.

What was the situation before the Facebook branded content policy update?

Before we look at the policy update in a bit more detail, here’s a recap on what the Facebook page guidelines were before the recent change:

“Advertising on Pages: Third-party advertisements on Pages are prohibited, without our prior permission.”

That was it, pretty straight-forward and simple. In fact almost all Facebook policy is thus, yet we spend so much time trying to read into it and interpret it to benefit our needs.

So, that social ‘shoutout’ you charged a brand for? Breaking the rules.

Posting a competition for your readers sponsored by a brand on your page? Breaking the rules (actually you might have been breaking more than one set of rules if you didn’t know your way around the Facebook Promotions policy III. E.)

Essentially, what most bloggers were doing before this update, was in contradiction to Facebook rules. However, the even bigger contradiction (or is it?) is that Facebook itself has been approving ad spend on these posts, essentially approving the behaviour.

Or is that just their way of giving their ‘prior permission’? “Oh you want to pay us? Great, thanks, approved”. Again, simple rule with a simple implementation.

This approval of ad spend is in line with other advice many bloggers refer to along the lines of “it’s ok to charge brands for a sponsored post as long as it’s part of a “wider campaign of activity” / “paid FB ad campaign” / ”existing relevant relationship with the third-party” (all of which have been bandied about to justify the activity). And, so long as Facebook are approving the spend on those posts, it seems all is ok.

Where it probably hasn’t been ok (and hasn’t been enforced by Facebook until now) is the rise of influencers charging for branded content and not putting any spend behind it.

What has changed since Facebook’s branded content policy update?

Really, not much has changed. Facebook are now just enforcing their policy and lining up some extra hoops to jump through to ensure they’re not missing out on the growth in ‘sponsored social’.

Branded content on Pages is only allowed from Verified Pages (with the blue badge) on Facebook and must adhere to the following policies. 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. When posting non-prohibited branded content integrations, Pages must use the Branded Content tool to tag the featured third party product, brand, or sponsor.

The policy update then goes on to describe prohibited and non-prohibited types of branded content.

This move starts at the top with the big influencers, and by big, think along the lines of examples like the below cited in Adweek:

“Kendall Jenner, Selena Gomez, Taylor Swift and Cara Delevigne are all worth $230,000 per social media post when the message appears across Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, D’Marie told Adweek. The celebrities represent a sample, according to D’Marie, of the top 2 percent of social influencers—which includes numerous other big names who can ask for $230,000 per post.”

Celebrities are also notorious for not disclosing product placement and sponsored mentions in their social media posts. Facebook’s move to enforce tagging the mentioned brand actually serves two purposes:

  1. Ensuring some kind of disclosure, in line with FTC rulings
  2. Notifying the brand of the mention, giving them access to the post performance and enabling them to put advertising spend behind the post

Lesson #2: The rise of the influencer is a force to be reckoned with

This is a very positive development and one that not only recognises the strength of influencers, but also the importance of disclosure and trust – the basis of influencer credibility and their value to marketers and brands. Any mechanism that promotes better disclosure and trust can only be a positive step in the long term viability of monetisation of influence.

What does this mean for the non-verified majority?

Facebook clearly do not think that the majority of bloggers are in this Celebrity/Influencer category (yet), and have reserved the special treatment for verified pages only.

That little word ‘only’ seems to be the one responsible for getting a lot of bloggers worked up over the past couple of days.

“Branded content on Pages is only allowed from Verified Pages (with the blue badge) on Facebook and must adhere to the following policies.” (Emphasis is mine)

Many have, understandably, taken this to mean that non-verified pages are not allowed to post branded content. But guess what? You weren’t anyway, unless given prior permission by Facebook. For non-verified pages this leaves two possible courses of action:

  1. Get verified
  2. Always attach a spend to branded content posts to get Facebook approval, and only start worrying when they don’t give it.

There are a number of blog posts flying around the internet that have tried to clarify this in more detail, including relating conversations with Facebook representatives.

You can read more of those here:

(Note: these are individual interpretations and not official advice from Facebook or ProBlogger)

More than likely the recent changes and introduction of the branded content tagging tool will trickle down to all pages, which means it’s a good idea to familiarise yourself with the implications of the new policy.

Why the new branded content policy is a positive move for bloggers/influencers

Other than to ensure Facebook gets a slice of the sponsored mentions pie, the policy also helps to ensure there is more quality content in our news feeds. As mentioned in the recent announcement about the update from Facebook,

“People have told us that they find some types of branded content to be less engaging than others, and this was typically when the content was more promotional.”

They’re also citing transparency as another key motivator for the update:

“For brands and businesses, the new tool will introduce more transparency and allow them to better understand how their marketing initiatives are performing across Facebook.”

Both reasons are reflective of a healthy and sustainable approach to the monetisation of influence. It ensures an influencer is more likely to produce/promote good quality content for their audience, rather than shilling overly promotional garbage to make a quick buck (read as: not selling out).

It also holds influencers accountable for what they’re charging marketers and brands to access their audience. With marketers and brands now getting direct access to post performance and insights, gone are the smoke and mirrors of vanity metrics and (we can only hope this doesn’t happen) false reporting of campaign results.

Lesson #3: Professionalism and transparency promote sustainable monetisation

You may not feel like accountability is a good thing, but in the long run it is. It holds influencers responsible for setting realistic expectations, charging accordingly and it weeds out those trying to make a quick buck from over-inflated audiences (ie buying fake followers) and giving the majority a bad name with marketers.

3 blogger monetisation lessons

So, in summary:

  1. No need to freak out, the sky isn’t falling
  2. Don’t put all your eggs in one Facebook basket (and this probably applies to Instagram too)
  3. Don’t be afraid of being non-verified, it’s essentially business as usual as long as you’re not breaking the rules that were always there
  4. Don’t be afraid of being verified and being held accountable, it’s a positive step towards sustainable monetisation of your influence

What are your thoughts on the update? How does it affect you and the way you monetise?

About Laney Galligan
Laney Galligan is General Manager of ProBlogger and the founder and director of Agents of Influence, a service helping online creatives understand, build and leverage their influence. When she’s not helping people earning a living from their passion (or on Slack with the PB team), you’ll find her on the roller derby track or spinning a hula hoop.
StudioPress Sites
Comments
  1. I just made an Amazon aStore on my website. Could I be considered in violation of this rule if I posted a link to the store? The branding on the site is mine, but it’s an Amazon store at the end of the day!

  2. I love your work and I really enjoyed this article. But one thing that everyone seems to forget is that, while Facebook may be “rented space”, it is people like us bloggers who provide Facebook with content for their readers to read in the first place. FB would be a very dull place indeed if we all stopped posting our unique content to it. They may give us the platform, but we keep user interest.

    I mean, no offense to my friends and family… I love them all dearly… but if their updates were the only thing I had to read on FB, I would much rather just give them a call.

    • Laney Galligan says: 05/04/2016 at 10:09 am

      Definitely agree with you Tiffany – which is why I included the reference to Facebook indirectly benefiting from all our content. Content means eyeballs, eyeballs for ads. Do people still call their families these days or just FB message them?! ;)

  3. Laney, I’m rather new to this and was about to start an FB page. I’m an author and will eventually be selling my books — but not directly. I’ll be using either Amazon, or iBooks, or B&N, etc. It will be more about promotion, but there will be buy links.

    1st, does this now need to be approved?

    2nd, when I review or congratulate a fellow author, for whom I will receive no affiliate $$, but do this only out of a sense of community, will I also have to go through this verified/approval route?

    Thanks for the clarification,
    Sry

    • Laney Galligan says: 05/04/2016 at 10:07 am

      Hi Sry, whilst I can’t give official advice, everything I’ve read says your above situation will probably be ok. I’d be careful about dropping an affiliate link directly in a Facebook post – overly promotional content that is asking for a sale (of a product that isn’t your own) seems to be frowned upon by Facebook. If it’s your own content you’re directing them to, and the links are on your site, then probably not as issue. Check out Amy Lynn’s post we linked to – it’s one of the only one’s I’ve seen to address the affiliate link issue. Also, I’ve also heard it is fine to post content about other bloggers/authors. Again, I don’t think Facebook really thought this one all the way through. The changes really only affect verified accounts at this point and it’s business as usual for bloggers (within the terms of course!).

  4. Great explanation. I appreciate how you articulated it. Thank you linking to my post as well.

    • Laney Galligan says: 05/04/2016 at 10:02 am

      You’re welcome Katie. Yours was one of the first we read here at ProBlogger.

  5. Elizabeth says: 05/04/2016 at 11:26 am

    Isn’t quality content subjective? If so, then can’t all content be considered bad content based on who’s reading it?

    • Laney Galligan says: 05/04/2016 at 12:50 pm

      It’s definitely subjective Elizabeth. But Facebook, according to their research, have decided people don’t like overly promotional and salesy content in their feeds – that’s the bad content they’re trying to reduce, even when someone wants to pay them to promote it.

  6. Dave Cearley says: 05/04/2016 at 1:34 pm

    All that, but the bottom line is that FB wants a part of every ad/promotion/sponsor/mention on their entire network. It’s like the owner of your office building demanding a revenue split on top of the rent. FB doesn’t create content, their tenants do. More importantly, FB makes money whether their tenants or advertisers make a dime. They’re a three hundred fifty billion dollar leech.

    • Laney Galligan says: 05/04/2016 at 2:42 pm

      Yes, they certainly do want to maximise the return on their investment. It’s an interesting (and successful) model. As content creators we’re motivated to create more and more content to reach our audience in an effort to justify our time building the audience in the first place. Facebook moves the posts because they can. We can play, we can pay, or we can walk away. In my opinion, Facebook doesn’t owe creators anything. We choose to use the platform they built and own. It just further emphasises why we need to nurture a range of ways to reach and interact with our audience.

  7. Thanks so much Laney for a clear and calm explanation of this policy ‘change’. It cuts through some of the very confusing stuff I have read earlier in the week.

    • Laney Galligan says: 05/04/2016 at 3:43 pm

      You’re welcome Jan. I think it always a good idea to keep things as simple as possible. When we all start interpreting and reading into things it can definitely get confusing. I think Facebook do need to clarify a bit better than they have though for non-verified pages.

  8. Martin Sebastian says: 05/06/2016 at 8:42 am

    Interesting take but I’m still not clear on this situation.
    First, FB Pages (capital P) are defined as those of companies and celebrities. This would exclude many bloggers.
    As to branded content, I see the following dilemmas:
    If I post a comparative review of 10 software tools written by another publisher:
    > If I’m not verified, seems against terms
    > If verified, is the ‘sponsor’ the original publisher or the 10 companies who’s software was reviewed?
    If I post a Youtube video of an actor’s scene rom a movie that was put up on Youtube by someone:
    > If I’m not verified, seems against terms
    > If verified, is the ‘sponsor’ the Youtube poster or the actor or the movie company?
    So, if your not verified, you can’t share much, and if you’re verified, you need to go through hoops to see who owns what???
    I’m confused. Seems like I have to stop posting…

    • Laney Galligan says: 05/11/2016 at 12:33 pm

      Hi Martin. There are a number of different Page categories, but restrictions on which types can be verified. For bloggers to have a verified page they’d need to change their page category to Public Figure or perhaps Writer or Author. I’ve read accounts where FB has said it’s ok to share content from other bloggers/publishers, so I’m not sure the onus is on you to determine who the ‘brand’ is in this case. You definitely don’t have to stop posting. Remember, the reason for the update was to target big influencers charging brands for posts and not paying for any FB spend. It’s not to stop you from sharing content you enjoy.

  9. Oh, Laney, I really appreciate how simply you explained this policy change. I finally have a much clearer understanding.

    I learned this lesson a while ago when I poured tons of my heart, soul and time into a Facebook page which became quite popular only to realize very quickly that it ultimately was, as you said, “rented” space and that FB had the final say over it.

    Thanks for this!

    • Laney Galligan says: 05/11/2016 at 11:46 am

      You’re welcome! You definitely need to weigh up your return on effort and consider FB just another way to reach your audience, not the only way.

  10. Thank you for great explanations! Love the comments as they bring an inside view of the article.

Comments are closed for this post.