On October 26, 2016, the Facebook Branded Content Policy was quietly updated. The most significant change was the addition of Verified Profiles to those who can use the Branded Content Tool. But there are a few small changes to the original policy, which I wrote about when the policy was introduced. Facebook Branded Content Policy Update
Now, the Facebook Branded Content Policy specifically includes the Verified Profiles in the language of the policy.
Branded content is defined as:
… content originating from a Page owner that features third-party products, brands, or sponsors that are different from the Page owner.
… content originating from a Page or Profile that features third party products, brands, or sponsors that differ from the Profile or Page. (emphasis mine)
What needs to be tagged?
This is the most confusing part. I say this mainly because as a legal professional I find the language to be somewhat vague and unclear. In addition, when talking with individuals who bill themselves as ‘Facebook marketing experts’ I do not get consistent answers and, in some cases, suggestions that would clearly violate the Branded Content policy. I’ve reached out to Facebook directly, but have never received a reply.
Images and Videos (and a whole lot more)
According to the policy, it seems that images or videos, as opposed to text content, posted to a Verified Page or Profile that is not related to the page or profile, specifically, but promotes ‘brands, products, or sponsors’ must be used in conjunction with the Branded Content Tool.
8. Third party images or videos promoting brands, products or sponsors that are unassociated with your Profile or Page, such as full-length third party video commercials, must be tagged appropriately using the Branded Content tool. (emphasis mine)
Since few would likely post a text-only status update, perhaps those who created the policy didn’t think it was important to include a text-only mention in this point. However, in the update announcement, as well as in the “Getting Started with Branded Content” document (PDF), which has not been updated, the listing of content types is more comprehensive.
On Facebook, we define branded content as any post — including text, photos, videos, Instant Articles, links, 360 videos, and Live videos — that features a third party product, brand, or sponsor. (emphasis mine)
The policy explicitly addresses product placement but does not define the term. As such, I go with the traditional marketing definition which is the use of branded products or services to gain exposure in visual or audio content.
9. Product placement in images or videos must be tagged appropriately using the Branded Content tool.
I think this is a wink at Native Advertising and a desire to put users on notice. Product placement in movies and television is ubiquitous. Most of the time viewers see it immediately. However, with online content from non-traditional providers consumers still need the education as to what to look for in what may otherwise look like editorial content.
FTC Compliant Disclosure
One of my issue with the original Branded Content Policy and the examples used (and still used) is the lack of legal disclosure. Compliance with the platform policy is important so you don’t get your page or profile taken down. However, legal compliance is also part of the marketing equation. I’m glad to finally see that Facebook is specifically addressing it in the policy, although it would have been nice to have the visuals associated with the policy updated to reflect this. Facebook Branded Content Policy Update
10. Profile and Page posts clearly disclosed as being sponsored or provided by a third party, such as self-disclosure within a post’s text, must be tagged appropriately using the Branded Content tool. (emphasis mine)
Facebook has always included the need to comply with all “… applicable laws and regulations …” but this is a first for specifically telling users that when promoting branded content you also need to provide self-disclosure. Definitely a ‘cya’ move on the part of Facebook to insulate them from regulatory action.
Generally, it’s business as usual with regard to branded content posts on Facebook. The addition of Verified Pages to the Branded Content tool functionality is a move forward in Facebook’s continuing creep of knowing what is being posted. It makes sense that the platform wants to know when sponsored, paid, or otherwise collaborative business arrangements are the basis for a status update. It gives Facebook metrics on all kinds of information. Being able to distinguish between the types of content being shared is another way for Facebook to gather data for new ways to generate revenue.
If you found this article informative, take a look at my other articles about copyright, trademark, and social media. If you’d like to discuss this topic further, please contact me or connect with me on Twitter or LinkedIn.
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