This Facebook Advertising Guidelines Update Puts Native Advertisers in a Fix

Are you a publisher that offers native advertising services to brands? Then I want to bring your attention to a minor change in Facebook advertising guidelines.

The social giant published this update on April 8, and it has been talked about as being beneficial for media companies.

Verified Facebook pages of publishers, celebrities, and other influencers can now promote their native advertising branded content on Facebook.

It’s obviously great to have access to 1.65 billion users that browse the social platform every month. Moreover, Facebook is also responsible for referring 41.2% of traffic to news websites.


There’s one tiny catch.

Facebook wants publishers and influencers to use the ‘with’ tag when sharing branded content.

This has following two major effects.

  • The tag allows the marketer, Facebook users, and Facebook algorithm to clearly distinguish that it’s branded content.
  • The brand and publisher both get useful insights about the reach of the post. Both can also promote the post (as I’ll explain later).

Can’t infer the challenges this tag brings for media companies?

Then let me rewind and take you back to how brands and publishers used to work before this update.

How Publishers Used to Promote Branded Content: Facebook Advertising or Otherwise…

Previously, Facebook didn’t allow publishers to promote their paid-for-branded-content organically on their pages.

Given the mammoth size of Facebook’s diverse user base, publishers could not afford to keep out of the platform.

That’s why media companies had created separate Facebook pages for their content studios. And promoted their branded content on them. For instance, T Brand Studios, the brand marketing unit of the New York Times, has a separate Facebook page.

BuzzFeed also has a similar Facebook page titled ‘BuzzFeed Partner.’ The page has 1 million likes, evidence of the intensive advertising BuzzFeed utilized for its native advertising content.

It’s no secret either…

Leaked documents showed that BuzzFeed spent $5.9 million to buy traffic for their native ads from Facebook in the first half of 2014.

BuzzFeed’s revenue has been consistently climbing due to its content distribution capabilities. It gets 6 billion views per month on its content (articles and videos). And 80% of this reach is outside of its website – spread across 45 platforms.

Even outside of their amazing public reach, BuzzFeed does not bluff with numbers. They rely on data to measure the performance of their campaigns. Their in-house data science-backed technology distils sharing insights for brands on a ‘Social Dashboard.’

They share metrics like social lift, social views and seed views (generated through advertising) with their clients.

As a marketer, you can distinguish the difference between paid and organic reach of your branded content. So with your advertising investment, you get a clear understanding of the value BuzzFeed adds to your business.

The New York Times also offers similarly detailed breakdowns to brands to demarcate their paid and organic reach.

But most of the other smaller publishers have smaller resources and still dabble with top-line numbers. They are fuzzy (in a way) with the business they bring for brands.

For instance, let’s look at Thought Catalog. They pair brands with their staff writers (that have millions of followers).

But how do they tell their clients if their ads work?

Here’s how their revenue officer Magnin describes it, “We do help our clients measure social sharing, pageviews, time on page, and combine those three metrics, and compare them against benchmarks, to figure out how well the piece worked.” (emphasis mine)


Facebook advertising numbers used to remain discreet at Thought Catalog.

Is Facebook at all a part of their distribution strategy?


In this interview, Cristina Calderin (Director of Accounts and Ad Operations for Thought Catalog) mentions that social channels are a part of their content distribution. And they have even built a separate channel Quote Catalog on Facebook to create “Quote Macros” that direct their audience to sponsored content.

Thought Catalog is among the top 100 websites on the internet. There are many other such smaller and lesser resourceful publishers that rely on native advertising for their revenue.

HubSpot Digital Publishing Benchmarks report found that:

54.8% of B2B and B2C digital publishers consider sponsored content to increase in value (from monetization perspective).

The bad news for these publishers is that branded content isn’t having much of an impact…

TrackMaven found that the brand output increased by 78% (from 2013 to 2014). But the social interactions with the content in the form of likes, shares, comments and retweets has declined by 60%.

I sense consolidation in the future of the overcrowded native advertising marketplace. But that’s a discussion for another article. Now, let me fill you in on how Facebook’s current stance on branded content puts native advertising publishers in a fix.

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Written by Chintan Zalani

Chintan is an ROI-focused content marketing consultant. Join him at Elite Content Marketer and learn how to grow your business through content.