After polls closed on November 3, Facebook indefinitely banned political ads. The company’s stated intent was that this preventative measure would keep political candidates (read: Donald Trump) from paying to advertise misinformation about the election results. Though this strategy has done nothing to stop the organic (unpaid) spread of false and deceptive content, Mark Zuckerberg and company have extended the ban for at least a few more weeks.
For those of us in the digital space who spend a lot of time navigating Facebook’s changing policies, this ban wasn’t unexpected, and we won’t be shocked if it’s further extended or becomes permanent. In the meantime, we’ve been working with progressive leaders and organizations to find workarounds to continue reaching their communities online.
In order to implement this policy, Facebook has been blocking ads that fall into the broad category of “social issues, elections or politics.” Unfortunately, plenty of mission-driven organizations have had their ads caught up in this ban, including nonpartisan nonprofits and companies connected to issues like food security, the environment, and immigration.
We like Facebook ads because they’re relatively inexpensive and about 35 percent of the world population actively uses Facebook’s platforms. Until there’s a viable alternative to Facebook, this political/issue ad ban will be detrimental to countless good, world changing organizations. It’s important that leaders act now to reduce the ban’s potential negative impact.
If your Facebook ads have been restricted, here are some steps you can take to keep reaching your audience and doing good.
Try re-submitting your ad.
If you’re fairly certain your ad is in compliance with Facebook’s latest policies, there’s no reason not to appeal the ad rejection or edit and republish your ad. We’ve found that the current ad approval system is buggy, and many compliant ads are getting incorrectly rejected on the first attempt, or even turned off mid-campaign without warning. Do know that Facebook’s definition of “social issues, elections or politics” is incredibly broad — your organization’s ads might fall into this category even if it’s not obvious.
Invest in organic social media.
Facebook is not going away anytime soon – if your supporters are on Facebook, your organization should be too. Consider shifting the resources you would otherwise dedicate to ads to creating great, sharable content and intentionally building a social media presence. One strategy we’ve recommended to clients is to consistently engage in established Facebook groups where likely supporters are already congregating. (If you need more specific support building an organic social media presence, we can help.)
Explore ad alternatives.
This is the time to think critically about where your intended audience spends their time. Is there another platform or publication your supporters are likely to turn to on a regular basis? Reach your people where they’re already spending their time. For example, if your organization is trying to get small business leaders to commit to environmentally responsible business practices, LinkedIn ads might be a great way to get in front of your target audience.
Lean on your email and mobile lists.
One of the best things about lists of opted-in emails and phone numbers is that your organization owns them — you can contact your subscribers as you wish, free from the undue influence of any one platform. You can continue to ask opted-in supporters for support on fundraising and advocacy initiatives, and you can ask them to help spread the word.
If you haven't already started building a robust email or mobile marketing program alongside your thriving social media presence, you’re missing an opportunity and taking an unnecessary risk. We recommend making it priority while there are still so many unknowns about the future of Facebook.
Not sure where to start? We specialize in helping progressive organizations build strong and sustainable digital programs. Schedule a strategy call with us today to learn more.