A Facebook Ad Policy Update With Big Implications

Last week Facebook made an important announcement to its content and ad policies.

Facebook will now allow publishers and influencers to share and promote the sponsored content they have been making for brands on their Facebook pages.

Wait, This Wasn’t Allowed Before?

It may come as a surprise to many that Facebook’s policy had previously prohibited media companies, celebrities and other influencers from sharing “third-party advertisements” on Pages without Facebook’s prior permission. If a brand had a partnership with a publisher like BuzzFeed to create and distribute sponsored content, a publisher was prohibited from sharing that content on Facebook.

In practice, of course, this policy has been widely ignored. Audit any influencer contract and you’re almost certain to find a line that defines how many Facebook posts are included as part of the deal.

Moving forward, this is a promising development for brands. With Facebook finally providing their blessing, brands will have better access to the content they’re already paying for. They benefit from being able to share and promote their sponsored content, and will gain access to insights and analytics on posts made by publisher and influencer partners.

What’s In It For Facebook? A Larger Share Of Brands’ Content Distribution Dollars

That said, this change has likely ignited a flurry of frantic emails to the legal departments of major publisher and media companies to examine the finer details of how these partnerships are structured. Publishers that inked contracts with brands for sponsored content priced those deals based on their ability to both produce and distribute the content through their websites or apps; brands are paying for eyeballs as well as content.

With this move, Facebook appears to be making a play at those distribution dollars. They have positioned themselves to grab a chunk of content distribution budgets that have historically fallen outside the “social” line item on a brand’s budget sheet.

And now that Facebook is in the mix as an option for distribution of sponsored content, brands should re-examine their content strategy, as it allows for more flexibility in distribution plans.

How Should Brands Move Forward?

Each brand/publisher or brand/influencer relationship is different, so there’s no simple solution that applies across the board. However, some immediate next steps you should consider are:

  1. Start a conversation right now with your agency and brand stakeholders in the digital, social and media spaces to come to a consensus point-of-view, and align on the implications for current and future campaigns. It’s safe to assume publishers are already having discussions of their own, as this announcement has the potential to have a major impact on their business models.
  1. Think about where your core audience is consuming this content. If they’re more likely to engage on a publisher’s article than on a Facebook post, that should influence your approach (and vice versa). This is also a good time to re-examine CPM/CPA/CPE benchmarks from both publisher partners and Facebook. You may find that you can drive a more efficient spend on Facebook with their targeting capabilities.
  1. Designate a single point of contact to engage your publisher and influencer partners on this topic; especially because this update is likely to cause some friction in these partnerships now that publishers will be competing with Facebook for distribution budgets. If your media agency “owns” the relationship with a publisher, work with them to initiate those conversations rather than having two or three parallel conversations across agencies and brands.

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