Amplifying Influencer Content via Branded Content Tool vs Whitelisting. What’s the Difference?

Working with social influencers might not be worth the effort unless you have a paid social amplification plan in place. Consider an influencer campaign with 100 midtier and micro influencers averaging 200K followers. That’s 20 million possible impressions, sounds great right? The potential isn’t quite as bright when considering true organic reach. After taking into account duplicate followers, bots, people outside of your target demographic or geography, and actual organic reach (15%-30%), you’re likely making about 1.4 million meaningful impressions.

Putting paid social behind creator content ensures it reaches the people you want it to. Without a strategy for content distribution, you’ll end up with lots of awesome content that (almost) nobody sees. Distribution can include reusing content in your own brand ads which is definitely a viable approach. This article focuses on how to increase the impact of influencer content through their profiles.

Influencer marketing + a distribution plan becomes “Influential Media”, which combines authentic storytelling and targeted media distribution. By launching campaigns that leverage Influential Media, brands can reach potential customers with the right content. Facebook (and Instagram) realize this and have moved to support paid influencer content amplification via the Branded Content Tool. However, many folks have figured out that whitelisting (gaining advertising permissions to their partner’s accounts) is what is needed to drive results.

Let’s dive into each approach and how Facebook and Instagram’s Branded Content Tool differ from whitelisting.


What is the branded content tool?

Facebook (and now Instagram) launched the Branded Content Tool as an easy way for creators to provide transparency into their paid collaborations and a way for brands to amplify their influencers’ content.

Facebook Branded Content Tool

Facebook requires creators to tag brand partners for a post by toggling on the “handshake button” when uploading content. The content is then posted with either a “sponsored” or “paid” tag.

  • “Sponsored” means the post is boosted and runs similar to a paid ad.
  • “Paid” simply means the creator was paid to produce the content.

Marketers have the option to run paid ads without requiring direct access to a creator’s account by clicking the “Boost” button on a post they are tagged in. Then select audience, budget and duration for the paid ad can be selected. The tool gives both content creators and advertisers access to high-level performance insights- organic and paid.

Branded Content Tool “Boost” doesn’t allow for CTA


Publishing whitelisted posts allows for CTA

Facebook’s Branded Content Tool makes it really easy for partners to tag brands and for brands to amplify existing posts through their ad manager.

However, there are a few limitations to the Branded Content approach:

  • Advertisers cannot attach a call to action (CTA) button to the post or drive traffic to pages outside of those tagged in the original post. For example, if a brand wants to drive traffic to a product page on its website, it would only be possible if the creator used that link in their original post.
  • Advertisers cannot target creator lookalike audiences which have been proven to have an extremely high affinity for influencer content.
  • No edits can be made to the post when it is boosted. E.g. copy changes or image format.

Instagram Branded Content Ad Tool

Instagram slowly began rolling out its Branded Content Tool in late 2017. As of March 2019, it also added the branded content ad extension to the platform. The feature will slowly roll out to all users over the course of 2019, but those immediately interested can apply to join the partnership program at any time.

Currently, creators who use the branded content tool are able to tag their brand partner and then the post will feature the tag “paid partnership with…” above the post. The branded content ad extension gives advertisers the ability to boost the tagged posts to their audience.

  • Creators can request to tag brand partners in both feed posts and stories.
  • Until the advertising partner approves the tag, posts will run without the “paid partnership” tag.
  • Business partners can approve creators in advance, to avoid the need to approve each tag request separately or require all posts to go through the approval process.
  • Advertisers can run approved posts as ads in the same way they run Instagram ads.

The drawbacks to Instagram Branded Content Tool are similar to Facebook:

  • The tool does not allow brands to edit copy or creative in order to run variant testing and figure out which ads perform best and are worth scaling
  • Branded content ad targeting is the same as Instagram ad targeting, which does not allow advertisers to run ads to lookalike audiences.
  • The tool does not support boosting Instagram stories
  • Advertising partners have access to organic insights including reach and engagement for both stories and feed posts. But, metrics are only available for 14 days from the original posting date.
  • It is not as intuitive for influencers to add partners as it could be

Enter whitelisting

What is whitelisting? The process for gaining advertising permissions to a creator's accounts so a brand can expand the reach of content and make decisions on which organic posts to run as paid ads.

When creators grant advertising permissions:

  • Brands can create dark posts- posts that do not show up on an influencer’s feed- which are identified by the tag “sponsored”.
  • Brands can change a post’s caption and/or add a call to action (CTA) when they boost the post.
  • High-level performance insights such as engagement, reach and impressions are available for both paid and organic posts.
  • Brands have more secure control over how a paid ad is run.

A Step-by-Step guide to whitelisting

  1. Go to and create an account (log in with your Facebook)
  2. Create a business name and enter your name and business email
  3. Hover over “Business Manager” in the top left and select “Business Settings”
  4. Select Instagram Account and then “+Add”
  5. Enter Instagram username and password, you will also have the option to connect your linked Facebook Page
  6. With the Instagram handle or Facebook page selected, click “Assign Partner” and enter brand partner’s Business ID number

Whitelisting is the “power user” approach and for this reason, is preferred by most advertisers.

When an influencer whitelists, brands gain more control over how a post is amplified.

  • Advertisers can add a call to action like “Shop Now” or “Learn More” to drive traffic to product pages, blogs, etc.
  • Engagement, reach and impression insights are available for both paid and organic posts
  • Allows for the creation of dark posts- posts that do not show up on a creator’s feed

In summary - Facebook’s  Branded Content Tool is easy to use but falls short when comparing capabilities to whitelisting. Additionally, Instagram Branded Content is only available to select users. While it’s a great way to control how a paid ad is run, whitelisting creators is cumbersome. Time spent explaining Facebook Business Manager to influencers can be tiring and wasteful. Gaining a creator’s trust to access their account may take time as well due to the level of permissions whitelisting requires.

Sounds like Whitelisting is the answer - what’s the catch?

However, there are 3 challenges with whitelisting:

  1. It often requires an explanation of a Business Manager and it’s permissions and how to grant access to every influencer a brand works with. The process and is prone to user error, creating headaches with a lot of back and forth and wasted time. This makes it a tough process to scale.
  2. Many influencers (and agents) are very hesitant to grant give this level of access because it is hard for them to manage after the fact.
  3. Brands cannot access and target influencer audiences (which you can think of as next level prospecting.

There are solutions being offered that address pain points when scaling influencer whitelisting collaborations. One of the industry leaders and first to market - Lumanu developed SocialCert as a solution for influencers to share their data and permissions with brands in a secure way. Lumanu’s platform provides two-way sharing and transparency to both advertisers and content creators.

SocialCert allows influencers to easily share content, audiences, and their usage rights with marketers. SocialCert gives creators control over their usage rights and confirmed collaborations, while advertisers gain the capabilities they have with whitelisting and some additional bells and whistles like insight into organic metrics, and the ability to run and optimize paid media behind influencer content.


Paul Johnson

Paul Johnson is Head of Operations and Co-Founder of Lumanu, the leading media solution that enables brands to maximize the ROI of influencer marketing programs. Lumanu provides a unified platform that allows marketers to buy media through influencer channels at scale and measure results from reach to conversion. Over the past 3 years, Lumanu has delivered 1 billion + impressions and seven figures of measurable sales lift.

About the Author
From time to time we feature Guest Contributors who we see to be thought leaders in the social media and influencer marketing industry. The content pieces below are featured content from these authors.