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Quick! Read this blog before all the social media rules change...again.

One of our services at Anglin PR is to prep ads and manage clients’ social media ad accounts, and last year as social media ad policies evolved we noticed several of our posts were being rejected for publication by the social media platforms. Posts that we knew weren’t controversial or inciting - and frankly, we had posted before with no problem - were being flagged and left unpublished. The reasons we were given for why the posts weren’t approved were canned and often vague. So we had to put on our detective hats and figure it out ourselves. We’ll share what we learned so maybe you ads can avoid falling into the social media abyss.

1. Soda and alcohol - the twins of social media

The only visible difference between a can of beer and a can of soda is usually the writing. They’re the same size with the same variety of colors and fonts, and to an untrained eye - like a computer algorithm - they can look exactly the same. We ran into this problem when we posted a gift basket giveaway that included an offending can of soda.

Our solution: The giveaway featured several yummy prizes, including the soda, so we didn’t want to take out any of the prizes. We also wanted to target anyone 18 years and older, so we didn’t want to increase the target age to 21 and up. We enhanced the photo to make the items clearer and more recognizable, and Instagram gave us the sober seal of approval.

We lightened the photo (the new one is on the right), which was just enough to convince the algorithm that the soda wasn’t alcohol.

2. Words matter.

With the collision of a raging pandemic, several social movements and the shift to at-home work and school, last year was highly emotionally charged. Though none of our clients ran political ads, several ads that were related to government operations were flagged for containing words or phrases that could be interpreted as political.

Our solution: We changed several usually-innocuous words and phrases to be even more benign. For example, we changed “city of...” to “community” and a specific phrase like “sales tax” to more general terms about shopping locally. We were reminded that the ol’ Thesaurus isn’t irrelevant, after all.

3. Everything is linked.

We experienced the same problem with two different clients, but they required different solutions. For both clients respectively, we were trying to reach people interested in learning about apprenticeship programs and nonprofit volunteer opportunities. However, the social media platforms interpreted the language we used in our ads and the web pages we linked to as job opportunities. While it was clear in the ad copy that we weren't advertising for employment, the corresponding page link made the ad platform think otherwise. Our ads were halted because of content on the destination page.

Our solution: Though the challenges were similar, the fix definitely wasn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. To correct the social media ad highlighting apprenticeships, we changed the language in the ad copy rather than changing the web page or linking to another page. The ad now focused on education through apprenticeships rather than employment opportunities. For the other ad about volunteer opportunities, we linked to an informational page rather than the volunteer application page.

4. Post to the most appropriate platform.

We wanted to grow one of our client’s audience interaction, so we posted a helpful video tutorial about how to fix a zipper (It’s really more interesting than it sounds.). We were surprised at how successful it was on one platform, but not so much on another. People clicked more than 300 times more on Facebook video ad than they did on Google.

Our solution (Rather, what we learned): Ad content doesn’t always directly translate between platforms, and that can result in poor performing campaigns and wasted budgets. When we’re wrong about how we think ads will perform, we need to be flexible, ready to pivot and get smarter for future campaigns.

These are just a few of the social media advertising lessons we learned last year. Just like the algorithms, the rules will probably all change, and the specifics we shared in this blog may be irrelevant later this year. But the tactics we use when encountering a social media advertising issue will always be a relevant starting point.


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