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Facebook’s new Branded Content Policy is confusing, to say the least! There are so many questions about the policy and who it affects. In this post, we dive into who was really affected by the change and whether or not bloggers can still use affiliate links on their Facebook Pages.
It seems like Facebook is always trying to make things more difficult for bloggers! Whereas it used to be easy to post links and get traffic from the site, they’ve changed the platform so much that it’s hard to get any traffic or traction.
Last year, they introduced the Branded Content Tool to help differentiate sponsored content from ordinary links that a Page might share. Here is Facebook’s vague definition of branded content: “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.” In layman’s terms, this means that if you have an agreement with a sponsor to pay for a post on Facebook, then it should be considered branded content.
While their intentions may have been good, Facebook really opened up a big can of worms with the release of this tool.
I’ve seen so many questions raised about the tool, including: “Can you use affiliate links on Facebook Pages? What about groups?” “What counts as a sponsored post?” “How do I use the Branded Content Tool with Amazon links?”
The worst thing about Facebook is that they’re intentionally vague about everything and change the rules regularly. While you might feel flustered by their latest update, let me assure you: It’s probably not as bad as you think.
Facebook’s New Branded Content Policy Explained
Facebook released the Branded Content Tool in 2017. It brings transparency to advertising relationships and theoretically makes it clear to casual fans when they are viewing sponsored content. Additionally, when publishers use the “handshake” tool, the brand tagged is able to see post insights and even boost the post if they so choose.
While it’s clear that this policy requires publishers to use the “handshake” tool when posting sponsored content, what has been less clear is whether or not you should use it when posting affiliate links on Facebook.
The answer, btw, is no: You should not use the Facebook Branded Content Tool with affiliate links.
Things got even murkier when they updated the Branded Content Policy in January of 2018, to include this line: “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.”
Seriously, Facebook, could you possibly be vaguer?!
I’ve spent the past couple of weeks digging around on this issue, and asking whether the new Facebook Branded Content Policy applies to affiliate links.
The answer here is still no. Affiliate links are still not affected by the Facebook Branded Content rules.
Let’s break this down.
When should you use the Facebook Branded Content Tool?
According to Facebook’s guidelines: “Don’t use the branded content tool to tag a Page, brand or business partner without their prior consent.”
Believe me when I tell you that every brand you work with on an affiliate basis does not want you tagging them in your Facebook posts. It’s even against Amazon’s terms of service to use the tool!
Before using the Branded Content Tool, you should have an agreement with an advertiser that you are working together on a sponsored basis. Chances are, as part of your agreement, you’ve been instructed to include “#ad” in your Facebook post. When you include #ad in your post, you’ll even be prompted by Facebook to tag your advertising partner.
No, you should not use “#ad” when you share affiliate links on Facebook.
No, you should not use the Branded Content Tool to tag brands if you include an affiliate link in a blog post and then share that post on Facebook.
Yes, you should use the Branded Content Tool if an affiliate partner pays you a specific fee for a sponsored post, either outside of or in addition to your affiliate commissions.
Yes, you do need to follow the FTC’s disclosure guidelines and include an affiliate disclosure of some sort in any Facebook post that includes affiliate links.
No, you do not need to include an affiliate disclosure if you’re just sharing a link to a blog post that includes affiliate links. Your blog post should have its own disclosure.
Currently, you should only be using the Branded Content Tool when you have an explicit paid agreement/sponsorship with an advertiser. Use the handshake tool if they are paying you specifically to post on Facebook OR if you are sharing a link to a sponsored blog post on Facebook.
OK, So Who Does the New Branded Content Policy Affect?
Have you noticed the rise in clickbait articles being shared on Facebook over the past couple of years? You know the content I’m talking about – posts that are shareable or entertaining but are generally nonsense.
What you may or may not know is that many of those types of posts are actually paid content. Pages sharing this type of content nonstop were being paid every time someone clicked on a link. These were, in essence, sponsored posts that were never marked “paid” or “sponsored.”
George Takei became a master of sharing this type of content on his Facebook page. Tons of other pages, like those belonging to Little Things, Quirky Mama, Diply, and so many others relied heavily on this monetization model.
Facebook’s new Branded Content Policy brought all of this to a screeching halt.
A few weeks ago, Facebook added the following to their policy: “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.”
Thanks, Facebook. WTF does this even mean?!
Remember: The Branded Content Policy was designed to address SPONSORED posts. This change targets those pages that made money from sharing articles and viral posts without disclosing that they had a paid relationship. But, instead of just requiring them to disclose the paid relationship, Facebook went a step further and said they could no longer share content that they didn’t create “in exchange for anything of value,” AKA money.
Digiday does a great job of breaking this down.
While I don’t know too many bloggers who are monetizing by sharing clickbait articles on their Facebook Pages, bloggers working with networks that offer “social amplification” opportunities will need to be cognizant of this change. If a network pays you to promote another blogger’s sponsored post on Facebook – i.e. content that you had no hand in creating – then you will run afoul of Facebook’s new Branded Content Policy.
Why is Facebook Doing This?
Facebook has had a rough couple of years, and questions linger over how much the platform helped influence the 2016 presidential election, among other issues.
In an attempt to right the ship, Mark Zuckerberg announced earlier this year that Facebook is changing its priorities a bit. Facebook is aiming to prioritize meaningful interactions, so they’ve decreased the reach of clickbait articles and videos. They want to prioritize content from friends, families, and other trusted sources.
“If people interact more, that should lead to a stronger community. And we already know that time in News Feed interacting with people is more profitable than time passively consuming video or news. When you care about something, you’re willing to see ads to experience it. But if you just come across a viral video, then you’re more likely to skip over it if you see an ad.”
While Facebook’s new Branded Content Policy made some people panic because of how poorly worded it is, it was really meant to address the sharing of clickbait/viral links in exchange for money. By cutting down on clickbait content – because what Page is going to be as motivated to share them regularly if they’re not getting paid?! – Facebook hopes to increase personal interaction on the site.
What Do Affiliates Need to Do?
Affiliates, for the time being, can keep on keepin’ on – er, can keep on posting links on Facebook.
I don’t think Facebook loves affiliate links, mainly because they haven’t found a way to take their cut of those potential profits. But, for the time being, there is nothing in Facebook’s Branded Content Policy that says you cannot post them.
Let me reiterate a crucial point: While you should not use the handshake tool when you share affiliate links, you DO need to follow FTC rules and disclose that you are sharing an affiliate link. The way I do this on Facebook is to usually include a sentence such as, “This is an affiliate link. If you click the link and make a purchase I will receive a small commission.”
In addition to following FTC guidelines, you also need to make sure that each individual affiliate program allows posting on social media. Most do, but always check the terms of each program to be certain.
Am I Certain?
Facebook is often purposefully vague about their policies and they’re notoriously bad about clarifying what they want. But, in terms of whether you can still use affiliate links on Facebook, I’m 99 percent certain they are still allowed. I follow the affiliate industry pretty closely, and if affiliate links were banned on social media, we would be hearing about it nonstop. If you were blogging when Pinterest initially banned affiliate links, it’s all people could talk about for weeks. Banning affiliate links would be huge, and Facebook wouldn’t be vague about it.
If you don’t feel comfortable posting affiliate links on Facebook, then you shouldn’t post them. But, for the time being, the update to the Branded Content Policy didn’t change anything and they’re still allowed.
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