Advocacy & Facebook Political Ads: What Your Nonprofit Needs to Know

August 13, 2018 John Haydon

What’s up with Facebook Political Ads?

If you use Facebook, you probably have noticed how the news feed presents political or issue-related ads.

In addition to designating the ad as “sponsored”, political and issue-related ads have an info icon which expands to display the organization that paid for the ad. From there, users can view an archive of ads from that organization, along with information about the cost of the ad, the reach of the ad, and even a breakdown of user demographics who saw the ad. All ads in the archive are saved for 7 years.

All of this, of course, is in the interest of greater transparency following the revelation of how Russian hackers used Facebook in an attempt to sway voters during the 2016 U.S presidential election.

Let’s step back a little bit and look at one of these ads which you might not automatically classify as “political”:

Now, when you view this additional information how does it make you feel? Perhaps you feel more trustful of the ad’s message. Or perhaps you really don’t care. For most people, greater transparency equals greater trust in the ad message.

Does this additional designation make your ad less effective?

I’ve spoken to several nonprofits that are concerned about the new political/issue designation. Some are confused why their ads are flagged as political and some are concerned that somehow this information takes away from their ad, which is not the case.

In fact, I predict that Facebook will eventually display this sort of information in all ads. Smart consumers are empowered consumers.

How does Facebook decide if your ads are political?

So how do these ads work? And how do you know if your ad will be designated as Political? Let’s answer those questions and more:

  • This only applies to promoted content (boosted posts, other ads)

First of all, the political/issue designation only applies to Facebook or Instagram ads. Unpaid or organic content will not be marked as political/issue, regardless of topic.

  • Robots are doing the work

Facebook uses artificial intelligence (AI) to scan content (text, images and videos) for terms related to politic issues of national importance. Flagged terms include prominent political figures or issues, and any “loosely related” terms. For example, the term “health” could be flagged because it’s an important issue that impacts the public. Here’s a list of terms that could be flagged in your ads because they relate to “national issues of public importance”:

abortion
budget
civil rights
crime
economy
education
energy
environment
foreign policy
government reform
guns
health
immigration
infrastructure
military
poverty
social security
taxes
terrorism
values

  • Robots scan the ad AND your landing page

Facebook’s AI scans terms that are both in the ad and on the landing page for the ad.

  • The political/issue disclosure displays the name of the ad account that paid for the ad

The disclosure reads “Paid for by [ad account],” and is specific to the ad account. If your nonprofit works with an agency, it will need to create an ad account for your nonprofit.

  • How to get authorized to run political/issue ads in the US

Here are the steps to run Facebook/Instagram ads related to politics or issues of national importance:

  1. You must provide proof of US residency.
  2. You must be the Page Admin for the page you’re running the ads. If you’re not a Page Admin, you should ask an admin on the page to add you as an admin.
  3. Only Page Admins can complete the entire ad authorization process.
  4. To complete the identity confirmation process, you must have 2-factor authentication enabled on your Facebook account. You set this up through your Facebook settings.

You may also need the following info to confirm your identity:

  • A US driver’s license or US passport.
  • A US-based residential mailing address.
  • The last 4 digits of your Social Security number.

Ultimately, your nonprofit shouldn’t be concerned about the new Facebook ad designations. Follow the tips I’ve outlined here, and you’ll be set up for success!

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