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Facebook is changing its mind on branded content, though it isn’t ready to completely dive in. The social media giant is revising its policy on branded content, which is anything that specifically “mentions or features a third party product, brand, or sponsor.”

With the latest change, Facebook is allowing any verified page to share branded content, however, the content must be labeled as such. This is a significant turn from the company’s previous stance against branded content and ads.

To help brands with verified pages label their branded content, Facebook is also offering a new tool to assist in tagging brands mentioned in the content. The company says the tool must be used every time branded content is published.

By changing their policy, Facebook is allowing companies with existing partnerships or sponsorships to bring their relationship into the world’s largest social network.

Notably, branded content can also be pushed via sponsored posts or leveraged in paid ads. The company says the new tool will hopefully lead to greater transparency while continuing to help users find valuable information.

When a brand is tagged in a piece of branded content, they will also receive access to post insights and can share the boosted post themselves.

While this is a notable change, Facebook still has some restrictions. Here is what Facebook will still not allow:

“…our branded content guidelines prohibit overly promotional features, such as persistent watermarks and pre-roll advertisements. Additionally, cover photos and profile pictures must not feature third party products, brands, or sponsors. Branded content integrations that are allowed to be posted on Facebook include content like product placement, endcards, and marketer’s logos.”

YourBusinessStory

Facebook announced a new video offering for small businesses called Your Business Story, which would allow Pages to easily create and share montage-videos incorporating still images and music. At the same time, the company let slip that it now has over three million advertisers.

Your Business Story is a simple tool similar to the previously announced SlideShow offering. The company didn’t say anything about ads being included in the platform, but the note about their recent advertising milestone suggests the new offering will eventually work its way into Facebook Ads.

In the announcement, Facebook said:

To celebrate the businesses that use Facebook to grow, we created Your Business Story — a tool that makes it easy to create a video that shows what your business brings to the world. Because we believe the best way to tell the story of three million businesses is to empower each one to share their own.

Three million advertisers is a significant milestone for the social media platform. In September, the company announced it had reached 2.5 million. Before that, it claimed two million advertisers in February 2015. That means Facebook has been bringing in about half a million advertisers every six months for about the past year.

The announcement also said the majority of the businesses that use Facebook’s ad services are small businesses, also saying “50 million small businesses now use Pages on Facebok.”

FacebookVideo

As Facebook’s video platform continues to grow in popularity, the social media giant is releasing a new set of tools aimed at making it easier for Page owners to control and manage their video content.

Now, when Page admins upload videos they will have new distribution and customization options available, such as setting for making a secret video or assigning an expiration date. Below is a full rundown of the new video options available for Page admins:

  • Secret videos: Upload non-discoverable videos that are accessible only via a direct URL.
  • Audience restrictions: Restrict who can watch a video based on age and gender.
  • Expiration date: Set a date for a video to be automatically removed from Facebook, while retaining all the insights data.
  • Prohibit third-party embeds
  • Upload without distributing in News Feed
  • Customize thumbnails
  • Tag videos by category
  • Edit video metadata

Along with these new options, Facebook announced it is introducing a new section under the Publishing Tools tab called ‘Video Library’. This tab will allow Page owners to manage all of their video content easily in one place.

Facebook is becoming a formidable competitor to YouTube, and could potentially bypass Google’s video service in video views in the near future. With these new features, Page admins have more reason than ever to give Facebook’s video platform a try.

Facebook says all of these upgrades will be rolled out globally to Pages “over the coming weeks.”

 newsfeed_preferences_home

Facebook is giving users the ability to choose what they see in their News Feeds, after years of relying almost entirely on its special algorithm to choose what to show its 1.44 billion users.

Of course, Facebook won’t be doing away with its algorithm anytime soon, but it is giving more power to the users to customize what they see in their feed. Essentially the update is a redesign and expansion of the News Feed Preferences feature available since last November, but it also includes some big changes for how you use the biggest social platform on the planet.

You can now prioritize the friends and Pages you want to see first, and posts from these profiles will appear at the top of your feed with a star to signify its importance in the upper-right corner.

The new feature also includes a feature which shows the Pages and friends which have been popping up most often in people’s News Feeds over the past week, so you can easily unfollow overposters or other people you’d rather not see. This also has a page which shows recently unfollowed users if you decide to reverse your decision.

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Similar to SnapChat, the update has a new discover section which displays Pages Facebook thinks you might be interested based on your other likes.

The new features are already available on iOS, and will be available on Android and desktop in the next few weeks.

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The best marketing is always informed by data. The more data you have the more you can pinpoint who you should be reaching out to and what they are interested in, and Facebook is making it easier than ever to find out who you audience really is.

Tuesday, Facebook announced it would be granting Page owners access to “topic data” which tells marketers and business owners what audiences are saying on Facebook about all sorts of topics including events, brands, and activities.

Obviously there are some privacy concerns with this type of data, but Facebook says all personal information is being withheld.

With topic data, fashion retailers can see what types and styles of clothing their customers are talking about, and businesses can gauge the public opinion on their brand.

This isn’t the first time marketers and business owners had access to this type of information, but previously they had to use third-party tools to get this level of insight. Facebook also claims that these tools frequently used sample sizes that were too small to be effective and argue it was “nearly impossible” these tools were accurate.

Advertisers should know there is no way to directly use this data to target ads, but it absolutely can be used to craft more effective ads and target them more accurately for your market.

 

Over the past year, more than a few people have predicted the death of Facebook. They cite the shrinking number of teens signing up for the social site and the increasing difficulty for brands to get organic exposure as proof the end is near. But, a new report from Shareaholic show Facebook is still going strong.

Facebook has consistently been the leader in social referral traffic for years, and their share of traffic referrals is only growing especially during the last quarter of 2014. In fact, Shareaholic’s data suggests Facebook may be responsible for nearly a quarter of all traffic online.

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The most popular social media site reached over 25% of the total share of visits to Shareaholic’s network through October and December, however it fell to 24.64% in December. Overall the site gained 2.27 percent since the third quarter.

The report confirms Pinterest’s popularity, as the data showed the site in second place. Still, even Pinterest can’t compete with Facebook’s share of traffic referrals. Pinterest’s share was only 5.06%, nearly five times less than Facebook.

facbook-advertisingThe Super Bowl is quite possibly the biggest single day for advertisers. There aren’t many other times you’ll hear anyone proclaim they are watching something “just for the commercials.” But, it has always been difficult for online marketers to get into the mix. That all might be changing as Facebook has announced a new tool to help online advertisers target people interested in the “Big Game.”

The “Big Game” targeting segment allows advertisers to reach people specifically based on real-time online discussions related to the Super Bowl.

According to the announcement, the segment will go much further than simply targeting football fans. The “Big Game” segment will also include those liking, commenting, and sharing content related to party planning, recipes, or even flatscreen TV purchases in the days leading up to XLIX.

The targeting tool is also designed to be updated frequently, so that ads will be directed based on up-to-date information.

The new tool is a change of strategy for Facebook, who used interests and liked pages to target ads last year.

According to the social media platform, combining ads with live sporting events is a highly effective strategy for reaching specific targeted demographics. For example, it cites a cross-platform Nielsen study that analyzed at a Microsoft commercial that was shown during the 2014 Super Bowl and found Microsoft was able to reach 35% of persons 18 to 49 in the United States during a four-day run of the TV spot.

Using Facebook ads during this campaign allowed Microsoft to extend that reach to 57% of the national target of people 18-49. Among the younger 21 to 24-year-old audience, Microsoft more than doubled its reach, extending its TV reach of 24% to a combined TV-plus-Facebook reach of 53%.3.

The new targeting segment is available starting today for all advertisers. It can be found in the Facebook ads interface within the “Behaviors” section, under the “Seasonal and Events” category.

like-gateTomorrow marks a rather significant change in Facebook policy as they close the so-called “like gate.” As announced in August, Facebook has decided that pages will no longer be able to require likes to enter contests or view content.

Facebook said the change was intended to guarantee people are only using likes on pages they really want to engage with, not due to “artificial incentives.” Interestingly, this is also one of the few changes Facebook has made recently to receive widespread praise.

Most social media and marketing professionals agree like gates were far from the best means of achieving the desired result, often drawing in many who have no real interest in a business. Emeric Ernoult, CEO of AgoraPulse, gave the example of pages which used giveaways of iPads or other popular consumer goods to inflate likes.

“It was too easy to make mistakes,” Ernoult told Marketing Land. “There have been too many people doing things that were actually hurting them but they didn’t realize it.”

Most importantly, the rule change doesn’t ban pages from simply asking for likes, which Ernoult agrees is an overall better policy. “You are asking now, you are proposing. You’re not forcing and that’s a big difference,” he said. “And I think it will force page owners and marketers to think about how sexy they could be and how appealing they could be. Instead of, ‘Of well, they’ll have to become fans anyway so we don’t have to explain.'”

Facebook has long been the favorite social media platform for sharing content, but if a report from the New York Times is any indication content creators may soon be looking for a new platform to share their content while still attracting users to their own websites.

According to the report, Facebook may be considering hosting linked content directly on its own site, and serving ads on that content, rather than linking directly to content creators’ sites. Not only does this mean a drop in traffic from Facebook users, the change could outright cause the site owners to lose revenue from declining traffic and ads on their own site.

The change is supposedly going to be limited to mobile devices, but it has already stirred up quite a controversy with content creators and marketers.

Facebook seems to believe the change could be more convenient to users, but those who create content see it more closely in line with content syndication or even content theft. No matter the convenience to users, many content creators depend on revenue from page views and ads which would be significantly impacted if Facebook does end up hosting content.

In the wake of the controversy, Facebook has even opened a discussion on the possibility of sharing revenue to websites that own the content being hosted. In the New York Times article, Facebook explained its profit sharing proposal:

Facebook hopes it has a fix for all that. The company has been on something of a listening tour with publishers, discussing better ways to collaborate. The social network has been eager to help publishers do a better job of servicing readers in the News Feed, including improving their approach to mobile in a variety of ways. One possibility it mentioned was for publishers to simply send pages to Facebook that would live inside the social network’s mobile app and be hosted by its servers; that way, they would load quickly with ads that Facebook sells. The revenue would be shared.

That kind of wholesale transfer of content sends a cold, dark chill down the collective spine of publishers, both traditional and digital insurgents alike. If Facebook’s mobile app hosted publishers’ pages, the relationship with customers, most of the data about what they did and the reading experience would all belong to the platform. Media companies would essentially be serfs in a kingdom that Facebook owns.

The real question appears to be if there will be an opt-out option available. There has been no mention of an opt-out or the potential for the hosting of content to be optional. Even if it is up to the publisher, the change could still negatively impact content creators who choose to host their own content on their page, as content which is hosted on the social platform is likely to look more attractive and convenient.

Facebook-for-Small-BusinessIf you believe everything you read online, you might believe Facebook is only a viable marketing platform if you’re already a big brand. But, a new report suggests small businesses across the country recognize the potential in advertising themselves across the site.

The study from advertising research firm BIA/Kelsey says small businesses are marketing on social media more than any other form of advertising. Specifically, their data suggests nearly three-fourths of all small and medium-size businesses are investing in some form of social media marketing, whether it be paid advertising or organic outreach.

For small businesses, Facebook was easily the most popular choice for social media marketing. More than 55 percent of the businesses surveyed reported having a dedicated business Facebook page, and another 20 percent have run a Facebook ad or promoted post.

Many businesses showed that social media marketing doesn’t have to be restricted to just one platform, as several businesses also cited using other sites including LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram, and Twitter. Notably, the researchers did say LinkedIn is likely not being used for promotion but for recruiting and general HR purposes.

“We were impressed with the strength of the whole social media category, not just Facebook,” Steve Marshall, director of research for BIA/Kelsey, said in a statement.

The study, originally published on Business News Daily, was based on surveys of 546 small businesses with less than 100 employees.