The Complete Guide to Branded Content on Facebook for Publishers and Agencies


By   |   October 6th, 2016   |   Reading time: 6 minutes Brands, Communications & PR, Digital Journalism

For publishers, branded content on Facebook is a potentially lucrative revenue source. But how should you go about creating branded content for the platform, and what are the guidelines you should follow? Our complete guide has all you need to know. 

One of the most interesting developments in online advertising in 2016 has been the opening up of Facebook for branded content from publishers and partners.

In April, Facebook allowed publishers to start posting branded content. Of course, most publishers are keen to figure out how they can best add revenue, and branded content on Facebook opens potential new revenue stream.

In the last few months there’s been an uptick in their usage from publishers looking to monetise their reach and name on Facebook, and brands looking to connect with the right audience. Leading publishers using branded content on Facebook regularly now include digital native like BuzzFeed and Mashable, as well as legacy sites such as the New York Times, the Washington Post and more.

For advertisers and agencies, branded content on Facebook represents a news way to market themselves and their clients. The appeal of the platform lies with the huge audience, as well as the ease of publishing. All this is enhanced by the possibility of the reader or viewer extending the reach of your content organically, by sharing it with their friends.

In this guide to branded content for publishers, marketers and agencies, we’ve divided the key processes into four key parts; creation, publication, distribution and measurement.

1) Creation: What to aim for

We’ve looked at some successful examples of branded content on social media on the blog before.

Crucially, it’s important to make the content relevant and engaging; the whole point of branded content after all is to engage the audience in a way that traditional banner and display ads don’t. 

When it comes to formats, there are different approaches available on Facebook, and you’ll need to have an understanding of what kind of audience you’re looking to reach. Does the content work best as a video, a link back to a specially created page on your site, or otherwise? Remember that a very wide range of formats are available, including native, live and 360 degree video, Instant Articles, links and photos. You can be quite creative in your approach.

Think natively in order to make the most of Facebook’s network. Consider the types of stories that tend to work on Facebook, and their format. Native and live video offer unique ways to connect with an audience that you may not be able to exploit on an owned site.

Facebook provide detailed guidelines on what your branded posts can and can’t include in branded posts. Here are some notables:

 – Don’t include pre, mid or post-roll ads in videos,
 – Don’t include banner ads in videos or images,
– Don’t include title cards within a video’s first three seconds.If you’re using graphical overlays, logos or watermarks included on images, they have to be approved through Facebook’s Branded content tool first (see below).

For inspiration on promoted links, check out the New York Times’ T Brand Studio Facebook page, which produces sponsored content for a range of clients, including Cartier and Adobe.

New York Times T Brand Studio on FacebookNew York Times T Brand Studio on Facebook

For native videos, the Wall Street Journal’s Custom Studio’s page has an impressive array of clips, focussing on their clients’ varied interests and areas of expertise.

Remember that the fundamental principles of what makes for good branded content still applies on Facebook. Make it interesting to the audience while remaining relevant to the brand.

2) Publishing: Ticking all boxes

Once you’ve created the post or video, you’ll need to post it following Facebook’s guidelines. Facebook’s ‘Branded Content tool‘ comes into play here.

For sponsored articles, if your page has been verified by Facebook, you’ll see the branded content tool readily available in your Facebook account, in places like the Ad Manager and page composer. All branded posts should be posted through this tool.

To post your branded post successfully, click the handshake icon in your posting box (this is only visible for verified pages). Type in the name of the partner page.

Facebook branded content

Then you simply add the link, image or add a video as normal. The process for Live Video is pretty similar – see this guide for specific instructions on how to properly brand Live streams.

Once you’ve published your branded post successfully, here’s what it should look like:

BuzzFeed Partner on Facebook

Notice the ‘with’ tag at the top of the post. That indicates that this is branded content, created by a verified page. If anyone else shares this post on Facebook, the ‘with’ tag will remain in place.

This gives a standard level of identification for branded content on the network, allowing for transparency for Facebook users, no matter what page the post comes from.

Remember best practices when it comes to posting – tips that the editorial side of a publisher’s team might often be more familiar with. We’ve already found that the best Facebook headlines are conversational, interesting and don’t trick the reader. It’s especially important not to withholds information required to understand what the content of the article is, and not to set unrealistic expectations for the article.

Meanwhile on the accompanying post text, we found that it’s important to be succinct as possible. You generally have around 400 characters before readers see the ‘Read More’ tag, but it’s a good idea to come in under that threshold. In the BuzzFeed example above, they’ve kept the tone they’re known for best, as briefly as possible.

3) Distribution: Getting your post out there

Once the post has been approved and properly tagged, it’s time to distribute. Usually there’s budget put behind this, which helps – but there are still best practices for distribution to adhere to.

Some publishers have set up specific Facebook pages for their branded content studios, and many have done very well in attracting engagements on posts.

One successful example is Mashable Studios. Their Facebook page attracted a very respectable 113,000 engagements in September 2016. Remember that that’s just engagements on the branded content posted from that Facebook page alone. Looking in Spike, we can see a number of posts taking off for Mashable over the past month.

Mashable Studios in NewsWhip Spike

In terms of reach, Facebook have this advice:

“Tagging a marketer does not impact your post’s News Feed ranking. The same signals — such as engagement and reach — will continue to guide your post’s distribution.”

With that in mind, many of the same best practices that you see for news feed distribution apply for branded posts. Partner pages will get a notification once the post goes live, and cross-sharing to a wider audience is a good idea.

Measuring the impact of your branded posts is an important consideration. Verified pages and their brand partners can get unique insights for their post’s performance through Facebook Insights, similar to the analytics available for regular posts. Careful analysis should help in figuring out what people are responding to – helping publishers monetise their audience, and brands connect with who they want to read and watch their content.

Branded content is something we’ll be looking at more closely on this blog in the next few months – if you’re a brand, publisher or agency doing exciting things in the branded content space, we’d love to hear from you.

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