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The internet world is everchanging, and sometimes, it leads to small inconveniences at best and major consequences at worst – especially, for those of us who rely on the online world for some much-needed income.
One of the latest changes that may well impact thousands of online entrepreneurs is the new updates to Facebook’s branded content policy! These changes came with little notice by Facebook and were received with much contention by… well, almost every online entrepreneur!
This is becoming such a big topic in the online world, that I thought it would be wise to postpone this week’s scheduled post, to publish this post on what I have come to learn and understand about the latest Facebook changes.
So, what exactly am I talking about?! See below…
Updates to Facebook’s Branded Content Policy
The last revision, it seems, was made and went into effect on January 25th, 2018.
Read the original content here: https://www.facebook.com/policies/brandedcontent/
Before going over the major changes that recently came into force, I think it would wise to go over some concepts and terms based on Facebook’s vocabulary.
What is Branded Content?
By Facebook’s definition, branded content is any content (from a creator or a publisher) that features or is influenced by a third party (i.e. business partner) for an exchange of value.
In layman’s terms, branded content is any post where you promote someone else’s products/services/brand in exchange for some value to you. So, think sponsored posts and affiliate links/posts.
Important Note: Initially, the definition of branded content only included sponsored posts in that you were paid to post or promote a product/service/brand. Recently, it has also expanded to include affiliate posts/links.
What is the Branded Content Tool?
The Branded Content Tool is that little hand-shaking icon that has been appearing in most pages and business profiles for quite some time now.
What it does is it allows you to tag your business partner (i.e. sponsor, affiliate brand) whenever you create a post that promotes their products/services/brand in exchange for some value to you.
Under Facebook’s policy (and this is not entirely new), you are required to tag business partners/brands (with their prior consent) whenever you post branded content to Facebook.
I like to think of it as a way to disclose compensation to you for posting about something you like or want to promote.
NOTE: You must go beyond using the tool to disclose any kind of partnership clearly. For example, you must add a disclosure statement somewhere in your Facebook post where it is both visible and clear that you are/may be compensated for that post.
Now that we’ve covered all basics let’s talk about the new changes to Facebook’s Branded Content Policy.
It all comes down to item six on the policy, which states:
“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.”
Okay, so what does that mean, really?
Let’s break it down into small legal parts of that convoluted statement:
“Don’t accept anything of value” — value here would refer to both monetary and non-monetary value gained. So, this includes:
Regular Sponsored posts: content where you are paid to post on Facebook.
E.g., You get paid $xx to publish a promotional post about a product/service on your page.
Sponsored Posts via rewards: if instead of money you earn rewards such as free products/services in exchange for a post about the service/product.
E.g., I’ll receive a free shampoo product if I publish a Facebook post about how much I like to use that product.
Affiliate Posts: these are any kind of posts where I *may* earn a commission (monetary or not) if people click on the link or buy anything through that link/post.
E.g. I publish a Facebook post about how I love the Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing Course. I’m not getting paid to promote it, but if people click through my affiliate link and purchase the course, I will earn a commission.
The next part of that statement actually includes 3 critical legal pieces of information that need to be considered:
a) content that you did not create – if you did not create the product you’re promoting, are promoting someone else’s services or did not actually write the content you are linking to.
b) or were not involved in the creation of – if you did not partake or were in any way involved in creating the product/services or the content you are sharing/linking to.
c) or does not feature you – if you, your name or your company/brand are not featured in the article, product or services you are sharing.
So, what does this really mean?
All in all, what it means is that you can no longer post sponsored posts or any kind of post where you earn money or products unless you have taken part in the content in some way.
Yes, it also affects affiliate links!
Under the new policies, you cannot post direct affiliate links to Facebook, even if you follow FTC policies by disclosing affiliate relationship with the company or product you are sharing/promoting.
The weird thing is, it also targets those who would, typically, use the Branded Content Tool! So, even if you use the tool Facebook requires to tag business partners, you still should not be publishing that post if what you are sharing/promoting is not your own content! Neuron-boggling much!?
Think you can Ignore it? Here’s what can happen…
I get it, Facebook is always changing its policies and, at some point, it’s easier just to ignore it than to have constant mini heart attacks every time there’s a policy change.
Unfortunately, Facebook is really cracking down on this pretty hard!
There have been reports of people getting Facebook jail, and it’s not pretty! Here’s what can happen if you choose to ignore it:
- Having your posts removed;
- Having your posting rights stripped away completely;
- Being locked out of your own pages;
- Having your pages completely removed/deactivated indefinitely.
Making it all worse, Facebook reserves the right not to reply to your inquiries, appeals or requests regarding the matter!
I personally have had some of my links banned. I’ve sent in reports, e-mailed Facebook and went through all the given channels for appeal, and no one replied – Not one single word! Zilch!
From both my own experience and what I’ve heard from other bloggers and entrepreneurs, it is better to stop any affiliate or sponsored content until these policies are clarified, and Facebook goes through the backlash!
So… what can you post?
You can definitely keep on posting your own content such as:
- Links to your blog posts;
- Pro Tips and Snippets;
- Open-ended questions that engage your audience;
- Meaningful articles that match your audience’s interests (but not affiliate or sponsored content)
- Share direct links to your own products and services.
This update to the branded content policy has made everyone’s head turn and many wondering how to proceed from hereon. There’s no question this will affect all of the online entrepreneurs, who for so long have been able to generate significant income from sponsored posts and affiliate links through Facebook.
It’s all still pretty messy at the time, so here’re some more articles on the matter that may shed some perspective on the subject:
Read this: Facebook’s New Branded Content Guidelines Will Force Some Publishers to Abandon a Business Model
Other Facebook Changes…
The changes to the Branded Content Policy is not the only thing Facebook has changed in the last couple of months. Yes, there’s more!
Back in January, Mark Zuckerberg made an announcement that they were going to change what people see in their home feed. In his statement, Zuckerberg made a commitment to make Facebook’s home feed a lot more about what friends post and less about ads, sponsored posts and business’ posts.
Reference: Mark Zuckerberg Announcement
I gotta say, I’m not entirely upset about it because I have been a little annoyed at all the sponsored posts on my home feed. But on the other hand, as a blogger who wants to grow an online presence, it becomes that much harder.
I mean, I do think there’s some silver lining in some of these changes (the home feed one at least). It forces us all to be more engaging with our audience and provide more valuable content.
The downside? It becomes harder to run social media passively – you have to be there and actively engage! So, it may take extra hours from your perfectly planned schedule! (and maybe some more extra time just to figure this whole thing out and revise your strategy)
There’s a little more about this topic, so I did some digging and made a list of really informative articles on the home feed change:
- RIP, Facebook News Feed for Publishers
- Top Facebook Updates that You Can’t Afford to Miss – January 2017 Edition
Moral of the Story?
I think there’s a valuable lesson to learn from all of this… It’s not so wise building a business solely on someone else’s platform!
Platforms like Facebook, Instagram and even Pinterest are great to share content/products/services and definitely great for reaching out to new audiences.
However, when you rely on these platforms (alone) to generate income sooner or later, you’ll have a major heart-attack (figuratively, maybe also literally) and your business will suffer!
This has made me rethink some things, regarding my use of Facebook (and even Pinterest) to generate supplementary income…
It seems like there is some wisdom to the adage “Don’t put all your eggs in the same basket” after all!
Thoughts? Do you think the new guidelines to Facebook’s Branded Content Policy will affect you and your online ventures? Any thoughts on how to go around that?