The Updated Guide to Branded Content – 2017 Edition

Life moves pretty fast. What was once shiny and new quickly turns well worn and beaten, and there are few places where this is truer than in the world of advertising.

When Facebook first launched its own branded content tool last year, we gave the blow by blows of why it was a blast from the past with a lot of potential…

But a lot has changed since then. And we know that you want to know what’s new.

In this 2017 update, we won’t just describe the key changes to Facebook’s branded content Tool.

We’ll show you 4 smart ways you can use branded content to help your ad hit its intended target.

So, without further ado, here’s the updated guide to Branded Content – the 2017 edition.

What is branded content?

Facebook defines branded content as:

…a creator or publisher’s content that features or is influenced by a business partner for an exchange of value.”

In layman’s terms, if you’re being paid to promote a specific product (or your content is influenced by any type of ‘value’ from another person/product/company) you need to be using this tool.

Common scenarios include:

Branded content essentially provides transparency about ‘behind the scenes’ affiliations that may be happening on Facebook. It also allows your brand to gain some trustworthiness by being attached to another memorable identity.

What can advertisers ‘get’ from branded content?

Using branded content has a variety of different ways to help with your marketing strategy, but we’ll break it down into two groups. The Strategic Side (aka marketing and results) and The Technical Side (metrics and data you can receive from the feature).

The Strategic Side

If you’re thinking that partnering with a big name can help your marketing game, you’d be right.

For just this reason, Kleenex decided to partner up with NowThis to tell their own story.

“We partnered with NowThis to discover and produce stories of Kleenex® Care® as part of the larger ‘Someone Needs One’ commercial program, in which Kleenex brand challenged people to be more aware of overlooked, everyday opportunities to show that they care. With the help of NowThis and our agency partners, we came up with a common goal: To uplift millions of women every day during timely moments in their lives with real stories showing meaningful gestures of care.” — Kleenex

To do this, NowThis released multiple stories with Kleenex to their audience over a 4-month period, such as the one of the barber who gives haircuts to the homeless (talk about a good tissue moment).

The result? NowThis reportedly saw a  35% increase in view rate, 67% increase in organic reach and 250% increase in engagement during their campaign. The campaign ended with over 22 million video views, over 1 million social actions taken and a 40% earned/organic lift [and not to mention some happy tears from their viewers].

Creating stories like these that showcase a personable side to a brand instead of reciting cold statistics or talking about ‘triple-woven fibers’ are the things that stick in the minds of consumers when they make their next purchase.

The Technical Side

Both branded content types come with some benefits for the Creator and the Business Partner in terms of analytics – but first, it’s important to go over them as the verbiage can be a tad confusing.

You can tell the difference between these types fairly easily, as it is mentioned directly under the Page name as in the example below.

When a Business Partner is tagged, the admin(s) of that page are notified. Clicking on the notification will take you into the Page Insights where they can view both Reach and Engagement figures from the post.

If the post is boosted or run as an ad, the Business Partner can also see some additional metrics such as CPM (cost per 1,000 impressions) and Spend.

You can also access these results directly by going to Business Manager and clicking on Branded Content (located under “Measure & Report”).

How does branded content work?

In order to tag a business partner, just head over to your page. From there, create your post as normal. You’ll see a handshake icon on the bottom of the post editor which will allow you to tag a page in your post.

Once you type in the page name and select it, you’ll see a new popup. From here you can enable or disable your partner’s ability to create a boosted post from this organic one.

You can also use this feature in AdEspresso!

To do so, just select your partner in Step 2 of the campaign creation process.

As of this publication, the following post types are acceptable forms of branded content:

…and voilá, you’re on your way to branded bliss!

Key changes to Facebook’s Branded Content Tool

While Facebook’s Branded Content Tool has not had a complete overhaul, there have been a few key changes since it’s creation. Two of them are very important for marketers:

Pages that post branded content in violation of our policies will get a notification letting them know what needs to be corrected. We will no longer remove violating posts; instead, violating posts will still appear on a publisher’s page, but will be hidden from News Feed. Publishers can restore News Feed visibility by fixing the violation.”

By requesting access to the tool (as outlined above), you also agree to follow their Branded Content Policy guidelines. You can give those a read by clicking this link to ensure you’re following proper protocol.

4 Smart ways to use branded content

By now most people know that advertising has a lot more to it than having an image of your product with the words BUY NOW slapped across it, but that doesn’t mean it’s always easy to reach your target audience.

When thinking about how to craft your branded content, try using these smart examples to help your ad entice its intended target.

  1. How-to videos

    These videos (mostly food related) frequently showcase a certain product featured in a tutorial. This can be a great way to leverage partnerships with a 3rd party whose audience may be similar to your own or could benefit from your product/service. If you’re a dietician who uses certain supplements, try incorporating those in a how-to video to leverage your partner’s audience with a product they’re already familiar with.

  2. Storytelling

    As all writers can tell you, a story is important and mastering the power of storytelling in your ads can give you a great advantage. And what better way to tell a story than to pair it with a big name? Time recently featured an ad showcasing Chobani, and how they saved a town on the brink of economic collapse by bringing in jobs with their new factory. The result? A feel-good ad that may make you consider choosing Chobani next time you’re in the dairy aisle.
    For your own ads, try to share what your company does (internally or externally) that helps your community or locale. These could be things like ensuring diversity and openness, volunteerism, or any community outreach you may do.

  3. Sponsorships

    Not to be forgotten are also your tried and true classic sponsorships. Think of the old Fashioned Soap Operas or any show that starts with “brought to you by”. These ads (like the one from Cheddar featured above) are a staple of Branded Content. If you’re going to use this type, make sure to align with a partner whose audience could be interested in your product. Advertising your new line of chocolates during a health segment on diabetes, for instance, may not give you the best results.

  4. Overt advertisements

Sometimes advertisers can be a little…heavy-handed when it comes to their sponsorships. What do Rick and Morty have to do with Old Spice? While I’m not certain myself, they do make for entertaining (and viral) ads. The above is a pretty extreme example, but bringing added humor to the table has been a great tactic for Old Spice and allowed their brand to be top of mind despite the company’s long history. In your ads, try ‘spicing’ it up and being a little silly. You may just be the next Flea Market Montgomery.

Wrapping it up

Life never slows down; if anything, it speeds up.

In one short year, Branded Content has come a long long way and it’s only looking to go further in the year to come.

This old-but-new method of advertising might not be revolutionary in concept, but it’s safe to say that it’s a well-worn practice that continues to evolve to meet modern tastes and preferences.

Now that you’ve learned what Branded content is, you’re ready to start your own campaign!

If you’d like to read our previous post and dive into the topic a little further, just continue scrolling down and you’ll get all of the juicy details.

Why Facebook Branded Content is a Blast from the Past

By Brad Smith

The rapid rise of banner blindness is matched only by the exploding adoption of new ad blocking tools. That spells disaster for most online advertisers. As a result, the savviest have begun exploring new opportunities like native advertising and working with influencers as a way to get their messages across to a hard-to-reach audience.

Traditionally, Facebook kept these forms of promotion restricted, requiring these ad campaigns to be run through them first. All that changed in April 2016, when they announced a new branded content (or ‘Sponsored Mentions’) feature that would allow verified Pages to run their own campaigns with influencers in a streamlined, DIY way.

While it opens up a host of new potential for advertisers, what’s most interesting is that there’s nothing new about this approach at all. Here’s why.

The Origins of Branded Content

The Michelin Star is the pinnacle of notoriety for a chef and restaurant. It’s verified recognition, from leading authorities who’ve been doing it for over a hundred years, that your food is good. Michelin ratings ignore service. And they ignore decor. Unlike other popular restaurant reviewing services, their focus is exclusively on the food.

Michelin relies heavily on a trained, anonymous staff who regularly grades restaurants on a three-star scale:

  • One star: A good place to stop on your journey, indicating a very good restaurant in its category, offering cuisine prepared to a consistently high standard.
  • Two stars: A restaurant worth a detour, indicating excellent cuisine and skillfully and carefully crafted dishes of outstanding quality
  • Three stars: A restaurant worth a special journey, indicating exceptional cuisine where diners eat extremely well, often superbly. Distinctive dishes are precisely executed, using superlative ingredients.

That means even the ‘lowest’ one-star award is still a MASSIVE accomplishment for most.

Gordon Ramsay, the same guy you can find most weeknights screaming at unsuspecting chefs-in-training, reportedly “cried” when he lost his two (!) stars due to inconsistency at his New York restaurant. He likened it to “losing a girlfriend.”

Part of the reason they’re so prized is that they’re so rare.

There are almost 500 restaurants in Chicago in the 2014 Michelin Guide according to Food Travel. How many have Michelin Stars? Again the tally from Food Travel: “Only one restaurant received three stars; four restaurants received two stars, and 20 restaurants received one star.”

The Michelin Star derives from the Michelin Guides in France, which have been published on an annual basis for about a hundred and twenty years.

The initial idea was hatched by two brothers, Edouard and Andre Michelin, in 1895 shortly after developing the “first air-filled tire” that we enjoy today. Not only was the quality better, but they could also be changed quickly, unlike previous tire models that were glued to the rim of the wheel. (Could you imagine how long waiting for AAA would take in that case?!)

The problem? There were only about 350 cars in France in 1895. And as most savvy readers understand, no market = no business.

So the entire goal of the original Michelin Guide was to get people out-and-about the country, it becomes evident when you go back and re-read how star ratings are worded (One star: stop on your journey; Two stars: a restaurant worth a detour; Three stars: a restaurant worth a special journey).

According to Pricenomics:

First published in 1900, the guide’s 399 pages contained all the information drivers needed to “go touring” through French towns and cities. Only restaurants attached to hotels were included, and they were listed rather than carefully rated. Information about installing and caring for Michelin tires occupied the first 33 pages, and ads for car part manufacturers occupied another 50 pages. Maps and basic information about dozens of towns made up the bulk of the guide.

Although there were early content marketing efforts from John Deere with The Furrow around the same time, the Michelin Guides became a world unto themselves and continue to play a significant part in the restaurant rating landscape.

How Facebook’s New Branded Content Works

A few months ago Facebook changed their previously held stance toward ‘branded content’ by unveiling a new option to allow influencers and publishers to work closer with marketers.

But let’s not bury the lead too much…

Don’t have a verified Page? With the little blue badge? “You cannot post branded content” (at least with this new feature). That probably rules out a decent amount of the people reading this.

Those with unverified pages can still do ‘branded content things’ however, like post affiliate links – you just have to abide by the proper FTC disclosures (which like, no one does). And then there’s also the Facebook Terms of Service you need to be mindful of. (This was verified by Kristi Hines.

Facebook defines branded content as any “text, photo, video, Instant Article, link, 360 or live video featuring a third-party product, brand or sponsor”.

The benefits of this ‘influencer marketing’ technique are obvious:

Simple as that.

Facebook made this new branded content option dead simple to execute too, featuring a little handshake icon that allows you to quickly tag the influencer.

(image source)

The ‘Sponsored Mention’ shows up now at the top of a content update, mentioning both parties clearly.

(image source)

When an Influencer tags a Marketer, they’ll get direct access to basic post insights like engagement, reach, total spend and even CPM on each tagged post.

In theory, you could try to sell things directly using this method – providing a clear-cut ROI to throw down on your boss or client’s desk.

However, the logistics of that might be pretty tough to pull off, as Facebook doesn’t convert like AdWords.

So you can also look at the direct metrics received, assessing the cost for this increased awareness and engagement compared to the cost it would have taken to generate the same using other methods or channels (like banner ads, etc.)

Because at the end of the day, most marketers are still obsessing over the best ways to deal with the crushing weight of competition, channel variety, and declining traditional methods.

Why Branded Content?

When Facebook made their breaking announcement, they opened with recounting how soap operas were created and developed by brands in the 1930s.

Starting with radio in the 30’s where (who else but) Procter & Gamble developed serial dramas featuring detergents. (Get it? ‘Soap Opera’?) Fast-forward to the golden age of advertising in the forties and fifties, when television began invading households throughout the country.

The short-lived Frank Sinatra Show in the 1950’s (he wasn’t very popular during this time – read this for the backstory – also, WTF with the mustache, Frank?!) was exclusively sponsored by Bulova Watches.

Fast forward to around the seven-minute mark for the ‘commercial’:

In these early days, networks didn’t produce shows and foot the bill quite like they do today. Brands did. Marketers and advertisers did.

For example, Procter & Gamble wasn’t just a ‘sponsor’ according to this excellent Contently piece by Yael Grauer. They also produced the infamous As the World Turns which ran for fifty-four (54 !) years.

That’s not a surprise to Copyblogger founder and CEO Brian Clark, who told Yael & Contently:

Procter & Gamble invented the soap opera in the 1930s with radio because they couldn’t figure out a way to reach housewives. Radio was new, and they created stories to appeal to that demographic. And then television showed up and they transferred it to television, and by the 1970s, soap operas are the most profitable form of television.

I worry sometimes about the lack of historical perspective.

I think the most interesting thing about the time we’re in right now is that when we look back — say one hundred years from now — at the 20th century, we’re going to say, ‘Wow, that was a weird aberration, where for a little bit there was mass media and it ruled everything, but it wasn’t there before.’

Today, there are already over two million blog posts published daily. 91% of B2B marketers use content marketing, with 60% creating at least one piece of content each day.

In short, everyone’s doing it.

Couple that volume problem with the ever-escalating number of available channels and we’ve got a problem…

How the hell do you stand out?


How do you get attention to your messaging when competing across multiple platforms with virtually everybody at the same time?

One way is with influencers. While the everyday influencer marketing tactics you read about online are mostly a bunch of crap, branded content is another thing entirely.

It’s piggybacking on the celebrity; the infinite reach of individuals or groups that also hold sway over those who follow.

Facebook’s move to not only allow but support branded content is evidence of something larger at play. It’s a recognition of the times, the challenges, and the ingenuity it’s gonna take to get your audience to see your stuff.

And what’s funny (or ironic), is that the strategies being used here aren’t a trend. But a rebirth.

What’s old is new again.