If it looks like an ad, reads like an ad, and smells like an ad, Facebook wants you to admit it’s an ad.
The social media giant has rethought the way that they present sponsored content. While it may seem restrictive at first, the new strategy grants power to brands, publishers, celebrities and influencers. Up until now, all third-party branded ads were banned. But today, Facebook has opened up the branded content gates.
What is branded content?
Sponsored content has a long history in marketing and advertising. In essence, it is anytime a brand or celebrity creates content specifically for the purposes of marketing or advertising. So are the Instagram posts of celebrities holding up products and telling you how much they love them. It’s the same game, on new channels.
Here’s how Facebook defines this different version of ad content: “Branded content on Pages is defined as content originating from a Page owner that specifically mentions or features third party products, brands, or sponsors that are different from the Page owner.”
So what does that mean in layman’s terms? Branded content is anytime a brand pays a celebrity to mention or promote its products on Facebook.
First, it’s important for brands to know that Facebook is not allowing branded content to go unregulated. You can read the entire list of what’s allowed and what isn’t here.
Next, the thing to keep in mind is that brands can now use influencers and celebrities to market their products on the social media platform without having to pay for Facebook’s ad space. For instance, Chevy could pay Jeff Gordon to talk about how much he loves his Chevy, as long as he tags the brand he’s marketing in the post.
Facebook’s fresh take on branded content has made social brand advocacy more potent than ever, especially for brands that already leverage celebrities or influencers to mention their products in radio segments, during live appearances, or on other digital platforms.
Brands ought to start by researching consumers to find out who they trust. In some instances it’s a high profile celebrity. In other cases it might be a YouTubber or blogger who has built up a strong and loyal following. For most consumers, it’s both. Reach out and see I f that person would be interested in a branded content agreement. If they are, the next step is to create interesting and engaging content for that person to post that stays inside Facebook’s new guidelines. Brands should let the influencer lead the way in crafting a message. Fans can smell a scripted ad from miles away.
Just like any other marketing strategy, it’s important for brands to be able to track the success of branded content. Always start with specific goals in mind to measure against. Collect statistics for every post from the celebrity or influencer on regular intervals, and use link tracking to measure how much traffic the branded posts deliver.
Sponsored content isn’t a magic bullet for brands looking for their next big break. But it is already proving to be an effective tool that social channels are embracing. For many brands, social advocacy is already an important and effective piece of a larger social media strategy. What are your thoughts on the change – both as brands and Facebook users?