Social Media

Should Marketers Follow Facebook’s 20 Percent Rule?

February 6, 2013

Facebook has begun to enforce a new policy for brands sharing visual content on its platform – a rule that has become known as the “20 Percent Rule.” The new rule is meant to limit the real estate occupied by text on images used in Sponsored Posts in the News Feed.

Currently, the policy only applies to content supported by paid advertising. However, if extended to all content shared by brands, the rule could threaten the very existence of posts that have become the bread and butter of many brands on Facebook: sharable, poster-style one-liners presented as big, bold blocks of text. See below for two examples from our clients Guinness US and Oscar Mayer.

Add the fact that according to this new rule, brand logos are considered text, and you have a whole new challenge for social media managers.

While this rule only applies to Sponsored Stories and not to regular content, it does raise a great question for content managers: should we start applying this rule to all content, sponsored and non-sponsored? After all, paid and earned media should work hand-in-hand and be as integrated as possible to maximize quick wins. Given this, the challenge becomes ensuring seamless content sharing between media and social when different rules apply to both.

While highly successful in social communities, copy-heavy posts like the ones shown above could not be used in News Feed Sponsored Stories. This means that a marketer would not be able to boost engagement or impressions of a piece of content unless that content inherently follows the “20 percent rule.” For brands, this presents a catch-22: create a media-friendly post that is less organically engaging, or create a more engaging piece of content that could ultimately never be supported through Sponsored Stories.

While it remains unclear if Facebook will expand the rule from media-supported posts to regular page posts, the policy will no doubt change the way social media teams work by requiring even stronger collaboration between content managers and media managers. The either/or situation outlined above seems to harm the integrated paid + earned approach that many teams (like our own) have established, but in reality it will ultimately call for stronger collaboration across the two services.

More than ever, community and content managers must be aware of the rules of media, and take it into account in their recommendations to media teams. Moreover, media managers will need to continue over-communicating with their community teams, sharing exactly which type of media they plan to buy to ensure they receive the right type of content for the right type of media.
To answer the question posed in the headline – Should marketers ensure that each piece of content follows the 20 percent rule? – our response is, not yet. That said, content managers should be aware of the rule, know which posts must adhere to it and take “visual one-liner” posts for what they are: an efficient way to visually communicate something quickly, and not something that should make up the majority of a content calendar.

As with everything in social media, good common sense still applies: stick to what works, but keep an open mind, remain flexible and don’t operate in a silo.