Every time social platforms upgrade, expand services and add new tech I get a little more excited. A lot of the most recent app launches and social channel updates seem to revolve around content marketing and that excites me even more.

We’re fast approaching a point where content marketing is becoming a dominant player in connecting with our target audiences.

The downside to that is things are growing faster than a lot of marketers can keep up with.

Some 60% of marketers still struggle with producing engaging content. More than 65% aren’t sure which content is the most effective and at least half aren’t able to determine the ROI of their content marketing and promotional efforts.

Thankfully, with Facebook’s new Branded Content roll-out, marketers have a new way to reach and engage with their audience while improving their tracking and reporting.

Facebook’s Branded Content – How “new” is new?

Truthfully, branded content isn’t really a new thing. Companies have been slipping their brand into consumable content for decades going all the way back to soap operas. The term “soap opera” originated from the soap manufacturers that used to be the dominant sponsor of those television shows.

Fast forward to our modern, digital age and we see similar branded content with Buzzfeed advertorials paid for by major brands. There’s also countless celebrities and influencers who accept payment to promote brands and various content on their social profiles like Twitter and Instagram.

It may have been around for a while, but branded content is completely new to Facebook.

Since the launch of branded Facebook pages any distribution of paid-for content, without the permission of Facebook, was against their terms of service. For example: No celebrity product endorsements, no branded pages could share content they were paid to distribute, etc.

All that has changed.

In April, Facebook removed those restrictions and has created a tool that allows branded content to be distributed on the social network. This new tool allows anyone operating a verified Facebook page to post articles, photos and other types of content from 3rd parties without the need to request permission.

That branded content looks something like this:

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What’s better is that if it is a result of a paid endorsement you don’t even have to share a cut of the proceeds with Facebook.

Here’s what Facebook had to say about the updated policy:

On Facebook, we define branded content as any post—including text, photos, videos, Instant Articles, links, 360 videos and Live videos—from media companies, celebrities or other influencers that features a third party product, brand or sponsor.

Today we’re updating our policies so publishers and influencers with verified Pages can collaborate with marketers to share branded content on Facebook through ads or organic posts. We’re also launching a new tool that makes collaboration on branded content easy and gives marketers more visibility into and control over all their efforts on Facebook

The Benefits of Branded Content with Facebook

The biggest benefit here is that when you are able to link up with a verified page for a branded content post, your page is also tagged in the post. You can see that in the above image where it says “Lady Gaga with Intel”. Lady Gaga is the publisher and Intel is the original content provider, or the source of the branded content.

If you’re the source of the content then you’ll get a notification from Facebook letting you know that your page has been tagged in a branded content post.

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If you click on that notification you can dig into a wealth of insights specific to that branded content. This includes the ability to deep dive into the organic and paid reach of the content as well as clicks, reactions, comments and shares.

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Earlier I mentioned how marketers have been struggling to understand the return of their content marketing efforts. These insights can give you specific details per content piece to help better understand the health and performance of your campaigns.

This is a great opportunity to start using UTM parameters with content that is created and shared on social. As those pieces get shared by a much larger audience you’ll be able to more accurately attribute traffic and conversions to specific pieces of content.

Here’s where the big benefit comes in as well…

Facebook has one of the largest user bases on the planet. I’m talking billion-eyes audience. The social network is sitting on the biggest, most diverse collection of consumer data ever seen and you can leverage that well beyond the standard ad capabilities with branded content.

Think about the benefit of a branded content post featuring your content and your name alongside a well-known and trusted brand or influencer. If you were to share that branded content to your own network and then sponsor/boost that post to a much larger audience you get far better reach and engagement thanks to the trust and authority the influencer brings.

Tips for Adding Branded Content to Your Own Strategy

So a company like Intel has deep pockets. It’s easy for them to reach into their massive marketing budget and shell out cash to a celebrity like Lady Gaga to pay for branded content, ultimately reaching millions of new fans.

I don’t know about you but I don’t have that kind of cheddar, and I don’t exactly have a little black book of celebrity buddies.

I hung out with Jason Mewes once from Jay and Silent Bob – not exactly my target audience. Besides I nearly made him crash his hoverboard so I don’t know how responsive he would be.

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So, if you’re not a Fortune 500 sporting a 7 figure marketing budget, what can you do?

1. Big fish aren’t necessary

Having an A-list celebrity would be ideal but that’s out of reach for a lot of us. It’s not necessary to shoot for the stars to start making branded content work for you. Pause and think about just what branded content is:

  • Instant Articles
  • Links
  • Text
  • Images and photos
  • Videos (even live video)

You’re already producing a lot of that and sharing it. The only thing that’s different is how you’re distributing it.

Look for influencers and other brands that align with your message, who share a similar audience. Even if it’s a smaller brand with 20,000 or 200,000 followers, that’s still a significant audience. You can still get a lot of reach and engagement without paying for celebrities.

What’s better is that you probably won’t have to pay a dime for that branded content in a mutually beneficial arrangement.

2. Know who to target for branded content posts

Not everyone has the ability to publish branded content posts. The originator of the content doesn’t have to be a verified page but the page handling the publishing must be. For now, Facebook has limited the publishing of branded content to media outlets, celebrities and influencers with that blue check mark next to their name, indicating they’ve been verified.

For example, let’s say I write a guide to the best off-the-beaten-path surf spots around the world and I want to find a publisher to do a branded content post. A quick search of Facebook for the term “Surfing” provides a mix of results with pages that are both verified and unverified.

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I see that Surfing Magazine, Surf World Magazine and even Red Bull might be viable options for scoring a branded content post.

While I might still get plenty of visibility by getting others in the list to share my content, they wouldn’t be able to publish branded content because they’re not verified.

3. Pitch Perfect

This might be uncharted territory for a lot of marketers. You need to reach out to those brands and influencers to make the case for getting a branded content post so your pitch has to be just right. If you’ve ever connected with someone to request a guest blog post then you know the process, and it’s fairly similar.

Two things are critical when you get ready to make a request like this; the relationship and the value.

Build a Relationship – The odds of getting a branded content post or guest post drop dramatically if you ask out of the blue. They don’t know you so it’s asking a lot to have them put their brand next to yours for their entire audience.

You need to develop a relationship first. Share their content, comment on their posts, follow them on social and introduce yourself. The relationships you develop with managers, influencers or editors is critical to getting a thumbs up when you make your request.

It’s important that they don’t feel like you’re just trying to use them for reach and engagement.

Sell the value – The brands and influencers that you target for branded content posts aren’t necessarily in the publishing business. Most aren’t. Their business comes first above all else. However, just about every business will be game for helping their followers out.

When you make your pitch be absolutely clear about the value that you’ll bring to them and to their audience. Help them understand what they get out of it as well as the takeaway for everyone else.

4. Ramp up your promotion

If you’re able to link up with an influencer or brand who has a significant following, don’t settle for the reach you can get from their audience alone. Even if they have hundreds of thousands of followers, you can go well beyond that if you have a promotional strategy after the content goes live.

One of the smartest ways to stack up the reach and engagement is through a post boost on Facebook’s ad platform.

Throwing a little bit of your budget at a boosted post comes with a lot of benefits, including:

  • Elevated engagement by reaching a much larger audience.
  • Customized audiences that match up to the brand as well interests pertaining to the industry and the content you’re producing/sharing.
  • Additional engagement stemming from the alignment of your content with a well-known brand or influencer.
  • Extended visibility for the brand or influencer; use this as a selling point when you’re pitching them on a branded content post and let them know how you plan to promote the content (and their brand) once it’s live.

If you’ve already got a content marketing strategy then most of the work is done. The content you’re producing is likely already getting shared and read by your audience, possibly even influencers and other brands.

Now is the time to reach out to those known influencers, establish a relationship and gain the benefits of increased reach and engagement. With the right content behind your branded content posts you’ll get far more engagement with a fraction of the effort.