Facebook updates branded content policy to clarify what qualifies as content

Two years after Facebook dropped its branded content restrictions and rolled out a branded content tagging system, the number of organic posts that marketers pay publishers and creators to publish to their own Pages to promote the marketers’ brands has swelled. The number of publishers and creators posting branded content to Facebook each month grew fourfold last year, according to the company.

But “branded content” can be a slippery term. In theory, it refers to an article or video that a brand paid a publisher or creator to produce or star in and to distribute to their audience. However, in practice, it can simply be an article or video that a brand paid a publisher or creator to distribute to their audience; it may not even be content but instead a link to a product page on a brand’s e-commerce site, making something that was already closely related to an ad now all too identical to one.

To bar publishers, creators and brands from abusing the loose definition of branded content, Facebook will more clearly define what qualifies as such on its social network, as well as on Instagram.

Facebook is updating its branded content policy to prohibit publishers and creators from being paid to post content that they were not involved in creating, the company announced on Thursday. Specifically, Facebook will add the following parameter to its policy: “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.”

When the change takes effect in March, Facebook will curtail the reach of branded content on Facebook and Instagram that violates the policy and, if publishers or creators continue to violate it, may eventually limit or eliminate their access to Facebook’s monetization tools, such as the labeling tool used to tag a piece of branded content and enable a brand to track its performance and run it as an ad.

To identify when a piece of branded content violates its updated policy, Facebook will rely on a system it has developed that uses various signals to recognize a business relationship between two Pages, according to a Facebook spokesperson. That system is designed to be able to distinguish between when, as an example, a creator posts a link to an article from an unaffiliated publisher that features a brand but not the creator (which would violate Facebook’s policy) versus a link to an article from an unaffiliated publisher that features both the brand and the creator (which would not violate Facebook’s policy, provided the creator is quoted in the article, as opposed to simply mentioned). Pages that are found violating Facebook’s policy will be notified and able to appeal the decision.

About The Author

Tim Peterson
Tim Peterson, Third Door Media's Social Media Reporter, has been covering the digital marketing industry since 2011. He has reported for Advertising Age, Adweek and Direct Marketing News. A born-and-raised Angeleno who graduated from New York University, he currently lives in Los Angeles. He has broken stories on Snapchat's ad plans, Hulu founding CEO Jason Kilar's attempt to take on YouTube and the assemblage of Amazon's ad-tech stack; analyzed YouTube's programming strategy, Facebook's ad-tech ambitions and ad blocking's rise; and documented digital video's biggest annual event VidCon, BuzzFeed's branded video production process and Snapchat Discover's ad load six months after launch. He has also developed tools to monitor brands' early adoption of live-streaming apps, compare Yahoo's and Google's search designs and examine the NFL's YouTube and Facebook video strategies.