This Facebook Advertising Guidelines Update Puts Native Advertisers in a Fix

“No Thanks…we don’t need your Facebook advertising help!”

That’s what brands are going to say to publishers when they see the actual number of paid Facebook interactions on their sponsored content.

If you’re a publisher relying on cheap Facebook traffic to gain eyeballs on your sponsored content, then your deeds are no longer hidden.

Brands can now gain detailed insights into whether it’s your website’s organic traffic and regular visitors that they are buying. Or are they simply paying you to perform Facebook advertising on their behalf and gain access to Facebook users that don’t even belong to your audience?

Let me quickly show you the process of how brands will get access to these insights on Facebook.

Step #1 – The digital publisher posts branded content adding the brand with the ‘with’ tag. Note that you’ll first need to click on the handshake icon for getting this branded content tag.

Step #2 – The brand’s marketing team get a notification that they have been tagged.

Step #3 – Clicking on this notification will take you straight to the insights showing its organic and paid engagement (just like usual posts from your page). You can even sort the reach by fans vs. non-fans.

With this collaboration, brands will be able to see if the publisher boosted their post or created it as an ad (along with the total spend and CPM).

Further, brands can promote this branded content post themselves by clicking on the “Share and Boost” button.

Unless your media company has sacred data like BuzzFeed showing the purchase value your audience brings to justify your margins…

Brands might get pissed off with the massive investment in your campaigns and re-negotiate the prices. Else, they might simply join the paid distribution game themselves on Facebook and promote the post that you craft. Especially, given the minimum 6-figure native advertising campaigns spend that many publishers charge.

Paid advertising options via the handshake tool are just the tip of the iceberg. There are other significant challenges that publishers will face.

3 More Complications of Promoting Branded Content on Facebook

I am confused…

Was this Facebook advertising guidelines update directly geared towards native advertising publishers?


Here are three indirect aspects that further complicate sponsored content promotion on Facebook.

1. People STILL don’t trust native ads

Even with those ‘sponsored’ labels. Fonts. Colors. And the ‘with’ tag now.

Most people can’t distinguish between an article and a native ad. In a study on 509 consumers by Contently (on six different publishers), four of the six groups identified native ad as an article.

And that’s not where the problems end for publishers…

Most consumers don’t trust sponsored content (regardless of who sponsors it). And they feel that a news website loses credibility by publishing such sponsored content from a brand. The numbers for the credibility loss have even risen from 59% in 2014 to 62% in 2015.

The majority of people even felt deceived on finding that an article or video is sponsored by a brand.

With trust issues still clouding consumers, they would probably not feel happy to engage with branded content. They will run backward from the ‘with’ tag.


2. Facebook has a history of cutting promotional content

Facebook wants to draw a clear demarcation between branded content and your content. This isn’t just to improve the user experience.

Once it has data around the average engagement numbers, it can trigger an organic reach decline. It just takes them one algorithmic update.

There’s circumstantial evidence showing a huge drop off in traffic for major publishers as a result of a Facebook update.

Here’s a chart showing the traffic for BuzzFeed, Huffington Post, and Fox News from March 2015 to May 2015. All the 3 websites lost up to 10 million visitors from social media.


And it’s correlated with this Facebook algorithmic update pushing stories from friends higher in the feed. The traffic soon rebounded for these publishers – so you may doubt that the algorithm caused it.

But the next case is rather documented…

In December 2013, Upworthy was at the wrath of the high-quality content algorithmic update by Facebook. Their traffic soared by 46% within a couple of months after Facebook said they wanted fewer meme photos in the news feeds of users.

3. Publishers will need to pay more to get more traffic

Facebook took it upon themselves to prove that my last point wasn’t hypothetical. They launched an algorithmic update that shows content from friends and family first to their users.

Forget branded content…this equates to lower organic reach for every post from Facebook pages.

And so publishers will have no other option but to take out their wallets and PRESS the “Boost Post” button.

It’s better to join the race right now. Because the cost per engagement for your content is expected to soar higher with time.


The potential native advertising challenges for publishers just keep piling up, as Facebook dramatically alters its policies and algorithms. Facebook said that it’s excited to see how brands and publishers collaborate using its tagging tool.

But I am sure of one thing for publishers:

The sweet native advertising margins will no longer remain.

Have you got any solutions to offer to the Facebook advertising guidelines update? Let me know in the comments below.

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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.