On Friday, Facebook announced a significant change to its branded content guidelines: any influencer or publisher creating Facebook branded content MUST tag the brand in their posts. Facebook clarified this to mean:
On Facebook, we define this as content that specifically mentions or features a third party product, brand, or sponsor (“marketer”). Publishers are required to tag the marketer’s Page in any post that mentions a third party brand, product, or sponsor. When tagged, the marketer will be notified and will be able to see high level performance insights, such as reach and engagement for the post. They also have the ability to share the post to their Page and put additional spend against it.
This explanation lays bare Facebook’s motivations for the change; by permitting brands to be notified when influencers and journalists publish about them, they can spend more money on Facebook to promote the content.
What does this change in policy mean for marketers and communicators?
First, we can spend more money on Facebook to promote earned media, especially in our work with influencers. The ability to promote influencer content directly with our own ad dollars is not insignificant! If you don’t already have a sizable portion of your ad budget allocated to boosting earned media content with paid advertising, now would be the time to reallocate those dollars.
Second, we can monitor and measure influencers’ content directly. Any tagged Page will gain insights for what influencers posted about them. This will aid our reporting greatly. We’ll be able to track and understand how much additional reach, engagement, and action our influencer campaign actually drove, rather than estimates or outright guesses:
Third, this analytical transparency will change influencer pricing (at least on Facebook) because we’ll now receive direct media data instead of influencer-reported data. While many influencers are honorable and ethical, there are a few who inflate their numbers to command higher prices. At least on Facebook, that game is now over. Imagine paying an influencer $50,000 and realizing they drove 181 views and 14 engagements, as shown above. Will that influencer continue to receive such lucrative offers? Not from that brand.
Fourth, this opens new opportunities for nascent, rising influencers. Now that brands can directly promote influencer content, we must consider total influencer campaign budget. Instead of paying one influencer $50,000 and hoping that moves the needle, we might instead choose 50 influencers at $500 each and reserve $25,000 to promote their content with our highly targeted Facebook ads. We can do smaller influencer bake-offs, looking for who generate more impact organically, then spend up their most influential content. Same overall budget, but a very different strategy and execution.
Fifth, this rule change by Facebook also changes how we think about influencers. Rather than thinking about the influencer as a single entity, we are now considering their content on a piece-by-piece basis. An influencer may post 10 times during a campaign, but if only one of those 10 pieces really takes off, we will put ad dollars only behind the best-performing piece. This puts additional pressure on influencers because they must be consistently influential. We might even see brands paying influencers for performance and/or holding them to more strict performance metrics; “influencer must generate X engagements as measured by Facebook Branded Content Tools”.
Finally, expect this change to have industry-wide ramifications. Where Facebook goes, so tends to go the rest of the industry. Expect brands to pressure other social networks to offer similar advertising and analytics options, especially if brands start reaping cost savings by pressuring influencer fees downward.
For public relations professional who work with influencers and broker relationships between influencers and brands, we must acknowledge that the rules of the game have changed. New data means new transparency, and that means our methods of identifying and managing influencers must also change.
I encourage you to read Cultivating Influence, our free eBook on data-driven influencer identification and management, to help you change with the influence game.
Christopher S. Penn
Vice President, Marketing Technology