Update: I wrote this initial rant soon after the news broke about Facebook’s additions to the branded content policy for FB pages. I am now updating it with my interview with Social Media Examiner with some helpful information from them and a plan of action for those of us who this affects.
The FB Branded Content Tool Policy Change
I have been using Facebook’s branded content tool from the day my page became verified which was a few months before it was released to most FB pages.
When it was launched and until January 25, 2018, my understanding was that it was to be used any time that any
“exchange of value” occurred between myself (the page owner) and a third party. I used it for blog sponsors, affiliate links and content partners. Basically, if I was getting paid in some way, I used the tool to tag whoever would be paying me.
During that time period, one thing that kept coming up was that affiliates like Amazon didn’t want to be tagged with the branded content tool, but as I read the rules, it would be against FB policy to post an affiliate link WITHOUT it just in case someone ended up buying something and a payment to me was triggered. At one point, I told Amazon that I couldn’t post their affiliate links if they wouldn’t allow me to tag them.
Because I am a rule follower.
Because I have spent years of time, energy and effort on my Facebook page. Based on the interaction from those who follow the page, it appears it was time, energy and effort well-spent. Quirky Momma has 3.3 Million fans grown completely organically.
To maintain a page of that size requires continual content creation, content curation (including video and live video), partner management, affiliate management, page moderation, inbox moderation, contributor management…all that before even one post is scheduled or published. I was able to maintain the level of staff it required because of the income the page generated through partnerships, sponsorships and affiliate sales.
And then came Facebook’s new branded content policy which FB defines as:
“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. “
These rules are in effect for Instagram as well.
All the rules are as expected making sure that users follow FB guidelines and comply with applicable laws and regulations.
The one that stood out as being a definite change was number 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.“
Every single day on my FB page the top performing posts are affiliate posts and partner posts. Affiliate posts sound like they wouldn’t fall within the new guidelines? And partner posts don’t either.
Both affiliate and partner posts are carefully curated to fit the Quirky Momma audience perfectly. It isn’t like we can just pop anything up there and have it do well!
But now it appears that these are out of bounds for the new policy and our page reach is plummeting. Not because organic reach is dead, but because we aren’t allowed to post what our audience interacts with.
Obviously, removing affiliate and partner posts also has caused a significant amount of my income to be lost overnight. What I don’t think FB understands is that this has a snowball effect on how much time and money I can spend on my page and how many people I can hire to help me.
The quality of content on FB was just significantly decreased with this action. And instead of spending the next few months trying to overcome this algorithm, I am simply raising the white flag.
You win, FB. You get less of my creative energy, time and money – all because you were afraid that a few dollars that come my way to support my Facebook community might be taking away from the ad dollars spent on your platform.
The other thing that drives me a little insane about FB is that it appears to intentionally create vague guidelines and then enforce unequally. Because I am a rule follower and have a community whose size draws attention to it, I can’t risk operating in the gray area. FB will never come to me and say, “No, you misunderstood that.” In fact, if you ask 5 people at Facebook, you will get 4 different answers and none of them are in the compliance department. Those pages on FB who ignore or are ignorant of this change will continue to make money and serve their audience while those of us who can’t risk it will disadvantage our fans.
It all is just a hot mess.
And I need a nap…
How Does the New FB Branded Content Policy Affect Bloggers and Influencers?
Most FB pages were never using the branded content tool because they simply are promoting their own business on their page. There is no change for these pages.
The change comes for those of us who had developed third party partners and promote affiliate products without creating new content around the product.
I was a guest on Social Media Examiner’s Social Media Marketing Talk Show and chatted about how this will change things:
How to Work Within the New FB Branded Content Policy as a Blogger/Influencer
OK, putting all emotion aside, we have to figure this out. We can’t be held at the whim of FB or held hostage by one sentence change amid a kajillion pages of fine print.
In the end, this can be a good thing if we play by the rules.
As a blogger/influencer, your FB page is about you and your brand. What the new change (Branded content policy #6) means is that YOU and YOUR BRAND need to be more involved.
It is no longer fine for you to sit on the sidelines and promote other people’s content and products for value. You need to be an active participant in that transaction and use it to further your own brand’s identity.
What I am Doing to Be in Compliance with the New Facebook Branded Content Policy Update
The bad news: I have discontinued all content and affiliate partnerships that didn’t include my brand as part of the transaction. This was about 95% of my income from the community I built. Next, I have removed many of the live contributors who were going live on Quirky Momma because I have no control over what they might try to sell during a live video. The stakes are too high to have this out of my team’s hands.
The good news: I have raised my rates on FB and emailed my clients that further partnerships will be co-branded. This has started a flood of creativity on our end to figure out how to insert ourselves into everything we do on FB. This is going to open the doors for more video and blog content as partners will no longer be able to work with my community for the price of a FB post (which was my cheapest option).
Looking Forward Beyond the Facebook Rollercoaster
The other thing it has forced me to recognize is that I need to get selfish and build my own brand above others. Instead of taking a sponsorship and spending hours of creative energy on that project, it would further my longevity to create my own projects and products. I already have a few of those, but a few isn’t enough.
Also, FB will no longer be the center of my blog sponsorships like it has in the past. Instead of putting money toward boosting and extra FB posts, I am pitching more dedicated email sponsorship, additional blog posts, integrations on Pinterest and IG stories.
And go back to SnapChat? <–please don’t let it be THAT bad.