Passing the test: Creating effective, acceptable social media ads.

Social media has revolutionized the advertising industry. Placing an ad on Facebook and Instagram, for example, is a very efficient and cost-effective way to reach your audience—certainly more affordable than television and print advertising. However, like every advertising channel, social media advertising—both paid and organic social media ads—has its advantages and disadvantages. And rules. Lots and lots of rules.

Visit the Facebook “Advertising Policies” page and you’ll see what we mean. There are lists of prohibited content and restricted content, guidelines for targeting and positioning your ads for relevance and accuracy, rules about the proper use of Facebook and Instagram brand assets, and more—lots more.

We create a lot of social media ads and content for our clients, so we’ve had to learn the rules, some of which are obvious and intuitive, and some that are not. For example, it’s pretty obvious why Facebook doesn’t allow ads that promote or even reference tobacco products, drugs (legal and illegal), profanity, weapons or the “sale of body parts” (yes, this is actually No. 30 on its list of “prohibited content”). But it’s not immediately clear why it’s okay for an ad to say “Meet active seniors” but unacceptable to say “Meet other active seniors.”

Let’s explore a few rules of social advertising that are less self-evident than others.

Personal attributes.

First, let’s examine the difference between the two “senior” sentences above. One is acceptable and one is not. The difference is the word “other.” Why is this word forbidden? Because it asserts or implies a “personal attribute” of the target audience. Facebook and Instagram ads may not contain direct or indirect assertions or implications about a person’s age, race, ethnic origin, religion, sexual orientation, financial status, medical condition and various other personal attributes. The word “other” in the ad makes an assertion or implication that the reader is a “senior,” and it’s not acceptable to imply or assert or presume anything about a person’s age.

Clear as mud? Let’s look at another example. Which of the following do you think is acceptable in the Facebook advertising universe?

“Do you have diabetes?” or “New diabetes treatment is now available.”

The latter sentence is acceptable because, unlike the former, it does not imply or assert a personal attribute—a medical condition, in this case—of the intended target.

So, what about all those television commercials that begin: “Have you been injured in an accident that wasn’t your fault?” Or, “Have you been diagnosed with mesothelioma?” Those statements definitely assume or imply personal attributes. But that’s TV, not social media. Different rules for different media.

Protecting social media subscribers.

The guidelines concerning personal attributes might seem a little strict, but it’s more about Facebook wanting to protect its subscribers than it is about punishing or handcuffing its advertisers. Other content is prohibited with the intention of protecting Facebook users from scams and other shady practices, false claims, and general unpleasantness. Examples include supplements deemed unsafe (like steroids and human growth hormone), payday loans, adult content (nudity, “excessive visible skin”), multilevel marketing (get-rich-quick schemes) and other “unacceptable business practices,” such as an ad that features a photo of a public figure that directs a user to a website offering unrelated scam products.

We’ve only scratched the surface of the guidelines for creating an ad that can deliver your message to the right audience without violating social media policies. The entire list of guidelines can be found here.

By reviewing these policies thoroughly, you’ll be able to craft an ad that avoids getting flagged for a violation. Better yet, make a call to AcrobatAnt. With many years of serving clients across a wide range of industries—including legal, healthcare, senior living, retail, and food service—we’ve learned the ropes about proper social media advertising. Let our experienced social media team help you create the most effective ad that still abides by the rules.