Posted 02.18.2020 by Josh Krakauer
Welcome to social media marketing in 2020. As you may have heard, Facebook set up an authorization process that is required before a Page can run “political ads” on its advertising platform. While you may not typically build political ads, getting authorized now could bail you (or a client) out of a tricky situation later. Yes, even if you don’t think the pages that you manage are “politically adjacent.”
Don’t fret, we’ve compiled a few notes on how to navigate this two-step process. [Click here to skip ahead to the authorization checklist.]
To start, let’s get a bit of background.
The definition is more flexible than you might think. Ads that include political content are defined as any ad that:
Whether you meant to run “political ads” or not, Facebook might think you are. “National legislative issues of public importance” is pretty vague, and that is intentional. We expect to see Facebook update this list over time to cover topics that Facebook wants to better regulate. (Yes, it is a literal list.) And, at the time of our original publication, it includes “legislative issues” like:
That’s…a lot. The broad definition of some of these issues could result in your content getting flagged regardless of how political you believe it be. That’s the crux of our pro-authorization recommendation; even ads that you may not consider to be “political” can be flagged. If they are flagged, you won’t be able to distribute them without appeal or authorization.
See this flagged post from Comcast, as an example.
At a macro-level:
Want to see what political ads look like? Wondering how much each political advertiser spent on Facebook this week, month, or year? In 2019, Facebook began compiling all political ads in a Facebook Ad Library. Satisfy your curiosity here: Archive of Ads With Political Content
There are some micro-level changes, too:
To start the process visit the identity authorization page. Once there you will be prompted to run through a number of steps for verifying your identity.
To do this, Facebook needs to generate a code to send you through the mail. Here are the steps you have to take in the setup process.
If you have ever verified a location for a listing site, this process should be similar.
Make sure the ID is completely clear.
In our team’s identification, early versions of our ID uploads threw an error code. Be sure to take a close up picture that’s completely flat, shows all four corners, uses a clear and focused image, and sits on a dark background. Then spin around in your chair five times and hope it works. Because Facebook.
Do not skip this step or you risk your Facebook ads getting flagged. Once you have verified your identity, and subsequently been authorized to run political ads, you will need to link your ad accounts in Business Manager to set up the “paid for by…” disclaimers mentioned above.
There are four steps to link your Facebook ad accounts. Return to the Authorizations tab in your Facebook Page settings to finish the process.
Once approved, a new check box (or switch on mobile) will appear in the ad creation process. If your ad includes political content, check the box to add a “paid for” disclaimer.
Since the original publication of this post, Facebook has rolled out a few more changes in pursuit of expanded transparency and control for political ads.
According to their latest update, these new features have been or will be implemented in the first quarter of 2020:
While all of these new features will have an effect on the advertising landscape, for the sake of this post, let’s focus on that last one.
Previously, Facebook users had the ability to stop seeing ads from specific advertisers. Now Facebook will offer the option to “see fewer political ads” specifically.
What does that mean?
The worst case scenario is that even if you’re authorized to run political ads on Facebook, your ad still might not reach your intended audience. If your ad meets the vague criteria of being about “top-level social issues” and is flagged as political, it won’t be shown to people who opt out of political ads.
Facebook does offer some resources on how to make sure your ads aren’t being flagged, like this table that gives examples of what is and isn’t considered “political.” Some topics are more straightforward than others.
As a quick note, only a page admin can complete this workflow from start to finish. For more information regarding how user permissions interact these new policies please consult this article: Facebook Business Help: How your ads that include political content will appear
Facebook claims that you should expect to receive your verification card 7–10 days after requesting it. Your mileage may vary. We found that to be true 2 out of 3 times. For the record, the verification letter was sent from Jersey City, New Jersey and we live in Iowa City, Iowa. If you do not receive the verification code in 10 days, contact Facebook. The two-factor authentication, ID verification, and SSN verification were near-instantaneous to setup.
For now this process has not rolled out to all Pages, though anything is possible. Here is Facebook’s official note on Pages that would be affected: “Today, we’re also announcing that people who manage Pages with large numbers of followers will need to be verified. Those who manage large Pages that do not clear the process will no longer be able to post. This will make it much harder for people to administer a Page using a fake account, which is strictly against our policies. We will also show you additional context about Pages to effectively assess their content. For example, you can see whether a Page has changed its name.”
Twitter is rolling out their own policy and authorization process for political advertising. According to their FAQ, they will be creating a similar policy for issue advertising, too. Expect more updates through 2020.
To learn the ins and outs of Facebook Ads, we recommend We recommend Facebook Blueprint, a free resource center, or a top-rated course on Udemy like Facebook Ads Mastery 2019 or Ultimate Facebook Ads in Udemy (we’re affiliates). You can also reach out for other ideas and resources, or hire a social media agency to run the ads on your behalf.
If you don’t find the answer you need in the Help Center, here’s a direct link to Messenger chat with a Facebook rep. Please note: As of April 2019, several users reported chat being unavailable. You will need access to your Facebook Page and Ad Account to facilitate a chat. They are not guaranteed to provide a solution, but it may get you to an official answer on why an ad was disapproved.
When activating an ad account and boosting posts, Facebook may ask if you are using Facebook advertising for business purposes. In most instances, including yours, the answer is yes.
Leave us a comment below if you ran into a problem others might have too. This post was last updated in February 2020.
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