So many brands works so hard on their social media posts and newsletters, but overlook crucial comms opportunities by outsourcing important messaging to bureaucrats.
When someone places an order with you, or donates to your organization, or even just signs up for your newsletter, are they welcomed into the family and made to feel as special as they are? Or simply sent a brief “thanks”?
Too many brands overlook such key moments in their audience journey. In today’s episode of Step Up Your Social, we’ll look at one massive failure, and a whole bunch of successes.
Hopefully this episode will inspire you to revisit your own customer or donor journey and edit accordingly!
Listen to the full episode here or wherever you stream podcasts. And scroll down for a full episode transcript.
Full Episode Transcript
A friend of mine recently had his outstanding student loans forgiven as part of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, which forgives all outstanding student loans for people who have spent 10 years working in public service.
He knew he was getting close, but the program is complicated and he didn’t know exactly when he would cross the ten-year threshold.
Then one morning, the email arrived.
The subject line read “You’re amazing” and when he opened it, it screamed “Congratulations” in 36 point font next to a picture of fireworks.
"Our country couldn’t work without you and the work you do” it continued.
There was a GIF of Jim and Pam from The Office giving each other an air high five.
The email went on: “The United States government thanks you for your dedication to our civil society and we are excited to inform you that all of your remaining student loans have officially been forgiven."
Then there was a picture of President Joe Biden eating an ice cream cone and a note that read “whether you like ice cream, travel, or just an extra hour in bed, we hope you find a way to celebrate this tremendous achievement. Congratulations. And thank you for your service.”
Of course that is not at all how the email read.
Rather the email’s subject line informed him: “Action Required: View the message in your Paperless Inbox and take action.”
The email itself was a templated form with a green button inviting him to “go to paperless inbox.”
Once there, he found a PDF formatted to look like a letter informing him that his loans had been forgiven.
It did use the word “congratulations,” but everything that followed would have looked more in place from his accountant at tax time than the federal government informing him that his life just got a whole lot better.
Now granted — this is an official correspondence from the US Government.
But here’s the thing — the US government is a brand, just like any other. And, as is all too obvious for anyone who follows even the slightest bit of news, it’s got a massive branding problem.
What an amazing opportunity the government has to recognize the once in a lifetime gravity of this message and take advantage of it to buy itself some massive — and much earned — good will.
The federal government is rewarding people for their hard work and consistent payments with a massive gift. Rather than letting an amazing copywriter draft this life-changing note, they let a loan servicing company do it, where it was promptly outsourced to a bureaucrat.
What a missed opportunity.
So you, the listener, are most certainly not responsible for drafting comms for the federal government. So why are we talking about this on an episode of Step Up Your Social?
Simple. So many brands make the same mistake (if on a much smaller scale).
They worry so much about every tweet and Facebook post and newsletter, but then let bureaucrats write emails that matter so much.
Here’s a test for you — pause this episode and go subscribe to your own newsletter with a new email address. What happens when you do?
Do you knock your own socks off with your welcome, or do you get a simple “thank you for subscribing” and then get added into the standard queue waiting to hear from your brand again… eventually?! There’s probably a decent shot you didn’t even get a confirmation at all, right?
The Hustle is a phenomenal daily email that shares business and technology news right to your inbox.
Their content is amazing and they work hard ensuring their readers enjoy every issue. They definitely understand that a welcome email is a huge part of setting expectations and welcoming users into their community.
Years ago they went viral, not for their reporting or their formatting, but for their confirmation welcome email.
The welcome email informed them that the moment they subscribed, a buzzer went off in their office and now everyone was celebrating with hand shakes, hugs and even shots of tequila.
Silly? Yes. Memorable? Hell yes!
You can find the full email here.
And it's not just welcome emails that get overlooked.
I’m a paying Canva user. I pay annually.
The typical company would send a note letting me know that my credit card was about to get billed. But Canva is no typical company.
Rather than informing me I owed them money, they wished me a happy anniversary and congratulated me on another great year using their amazing product.
My wife and I have two little kids. We recently bought them each a pair of Keen sandals. A few weeks after buying them, we got an email from Keen asking if “those shoes dirty yet?” chock-full of helpful cleaning tips to keep our kids shoes looking clean and ready to go.
I’ll close this episode with one more example. When CD Baby first launched in the late ’90s, they were shipping physical CDs to people. Weird, I know.
Every order resulted in an automated email, which simply read “Your order has shipped today. Please let us know if it doesn’t arrive. Thank you for your business.”
But one day, Derek Sivers, the founder of CD Baby, realized that he could do better. So he replaced that bureaucratic drivel with the following:
Your CD has been gently taken from our CD Baby shelves with sterilized contamination-free gloves and placed onto a satin pillow.
A team of 50 employees inspected your CD an d polished it to make sure it was in the best possible condition before mailing.
Our packing specialist from Japan lit a candle and a hush fell over the crowd as he put your CD into the finest gold-lined box that money can buy.
We all had a wonderful celebration afterwards and the whole party marched down the street to the post office where the entire town of Portland waved “Bon Voyage!” to your package, on its way to you, in our private CD Baby jet on this day, Friday, June 6th.
I hope you had a wonderful time shopping at CD Baby. We sure did. Your picture is on our wall as “Customer of the Year.” We’re all exhausted but can’t wait for you to come back to CDBABY.COM!
Quite a re-write!
Sivers claims that simple email created “thousands of new customers.”
And I believe him! I know I for sure would be way likelier to tell my friends about it, then a note simply informing me that my CD has shipped.
So here’s your assignment: go through your own customer or donor journey and ask yourself - do your most important communications sound like they were written by a bureaucrat or by someone who actually loves your brand as much as you do.
Political Facebook ads keep getting more and more difficult.
Once upon a time, the only thing you need to run political ads on Facebook was a business page and a credit card. The 2016 Presidential election changed all that.
Facebook has added numerous new policies to prevent misuse. Some seem well thought out… others are just absurd. But as I always say, Facebook doesn’t live in our world, we live in theirs.
So every new change or tweak they roll out, no matter how ridiculous, we must simply adapt.
To run political ads of Facebook, you — the advertiser — need to be verified. You can start that process at facebook.com/id.
Your Facebook page needs a political disclaimer.
Your organization needs to be approved.
You can find all these steps, and get started, by going to your Facebook Page and navigating to settings => Issue, Electoral or Political Ads.
But getting everything approved isn’t exactly simple.
Here’s a fun fact: you are now required to have a website in order to run political ads on Facebook. Which is all well and good if you’re a Senate campaign, but might make less sense if you’re running for city council of a small town.
Some folks look to run ads aren’t even connected to a formal organization, but simply want to take a stand on an issue in their community. Unfortunately, the phrase “political ads” is actually quite misleading.
Facebook deems ads “political,” not just if they are from or in support of a formal political campaign, but also if they delve into a huge litany of topics including climate, LGBTQ+ issues, women’s rights… many nonprofits that don’t have anything to do with politics find themselves required to list their ads as political.
Another big issue I see campaigns make when applying for disclaimers: you must have an email address that matches your website. Meaning if your website is JoshForWisconsin.com you MUST have an email ending in @joshforwisconsin.com.
These are some serious hoops they are making down ballot candidates and tiny nonprofits jump through in order to run ads.
Check out this short thread on the issue if you’re so inclined.
But, that’s what it takes to run political ads on Facebook.
But here’s the thing, even if you do everything flawlessly, there is a decent chance you are going to set up ads, get them approved, and then watch with horror as your ad buy remains at $0.
This brutal phenomenon has been happening a lot of late.
So without further ado, here is my list of things you can troubleshoot to try and get your political Facebook ads to actually start spending once they have been approved.
Or to put it another way…
5 Reasons Your Political Facebook Ads Might Not Be Spending
First things first, all ads should be built in the ads manager (facebook.com/ads/manager). Even if you’re just “boosting posts” do it in the ads manager. You’ll have far better control and insight into your ads program when you do so.
Now that you’re in the ads manager (which is different than the ads center!), look in the top right corner at the dropdown menu and check your reporting timeframe.
Is it set to maximum? If not, it should be.
While this probably isn’t the issue, it’s by far the easiest to fix. So it makes sense to start here.
If you started your Facebook Political Ad campaign this month, but you’re looking at reporting for “last month,” it will show you haven’t spent any money, even if that’s not the case. Flip on over to maximum and see what happens.
If it shows ad spend, you’re good to go!
If not, you should check your Facebook Political Ads Disclaimer. If you don’t have a disclaimer, your political Facebook ads will definitely get rejected.
But there’s this annoying glitch where Facebook will disable your ads disclaimer, but for some reason they will still approve your political ads — they just won’t actually let you spend any money.
Go check your disclaimer.
If you get there and it says your disclaimer is disabled, you’ll need to reauthorize it. In my experience, that’s usually as simple as getting emailed a code. But, as always, YMMV.
Once it’s re-authorized, that usually solves the problem outright. If it doesn’t (meaning if after a day or two, you still aren’t spending), DON’T duplicate the campaign. But rather rebuild it from scratch. For some reason duplicating seems to drag the issue along with it. Rebuilding from scratch, in my experience, does not. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Another issue that might be at play — check and see how many disclaimers you have.
I’ve inherited accounts and realized they had more than one disclaimer set up. It’s very hard to select which disclaimer you want to use with your ad when building out your campaign — and if you wind up with a disabled one, the ads won’t spend. I find it’s better to simply delete any that you don’t need. If you have an out-of-date disclaimer, delete it, and as above, if that doesn’t work quickly, try rebuilding your ads from scratch.
There is a very good chance that this will solve your problem and your Facebook Political Ads will start spending promptly.
If you are using a custom audience (like a mailing list, or voterfile data…) it’s possible that your audience is too small to target with ads. That could be the reason your Facebook Political Ads aren’t spending. So it's time to check your audience size.
Once upon a time, when you uploaded a custom audience into Facebook, Facebook would tell you how many people from your audience were matched. Those days are no more. (Usually. Every now and then, they will tell you. Why? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯)
If your match rate is less than ~1000, your ads may get approved but they will likely not run.
Now if you’re saying to yourself, but I fed 1200 people into Facebook — I’m good… you’re probably not! Facebook’s match rate for custom audiences is never going to be 100%. Which is fair enough — not everyone on your mailing list is on Facebook. And some of them gave you their work email but use their personal email for Facebook. I’ve seen lists match at 85%. And others at 30%. It really depends on the list you are starting with.
As a rule of thumb, I assume I’m going to get between a 50%-70% match rate with Facebook custom audiences. Annoyingly, you won’t know your match rate until you start running ads. Then you can track your reach and, once you’ve spent a bit, you should have a decent sense of your list size.
But again, if you’re not spending, it might be because your audience is simply too small.
If this is the issue, you need to find a way to expand your audience size. You might not be able to target your mailing list or voterfile data. You might have to use Facebook saved audiences, where you build out an audience based on information like age, gender, location, etc.
Try targeting a larger audience and see if it starts spending. If it does, you’ve identified your issue. Great job!
Since we’re talking about Facebook saved audiences, it’s worth mentioning that Facebook changed the data we have access to significantly in early 2022.
You used to be able to target fans of AOC, Rachel Maddow and John Oliver. You could target “liberals” and “conservatives.” You could target people interested in LGBTQ+ or climate change or people who liked Human Rights Campaign or Sierra Club.
Facebook has scrubbed all of that data from their audience builder. Why? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
It’s a truly bizarre and awful move from Facebook, but again, this is their world — we just live in it. So check your targeting.
If you are trying to run ads to audiences you built before this change, there’s a possibility that they let you build the ad, and even approved it, but that they won’t actually let it run.
Go in and edit your campaign’s audience. It will show if you are currently using any data you are no longer allowed to use.
Update accordingly and this might solve your problem.
Facebook recently updated their policy on daily ad spend. They’ve always had a daily ad spend limit — especially for new accounts — but of late, I’ve found that every new account has a default daily ad spend limit of just $50. So now you need to check your daily ad spend limit.
This won’t be an issue for why you can’t spend at all — but if you’re spending keeps capping at $50 a day, despite a much larger budget, this is almost definitely why.
The good news: Facebook will help you increase your daily ad spend. Simply go to GPA Help and ask them to.
The bad news: It might take a bit. And if you’re desperately trying to GOTV in the final days of your campaign, help might not arrive in time.
To recap, here are 5 things to check if your Political Facebook Ads are approved but won’t start spending:
That’s my list. If you have any other solutions to try please share them with me. We’re all in this together!
If none of the above helped, hit me up. I help progressive candidates, campaigns and organizations troubleshoot such issues all the time and I’d love to help you get your ad program up and running.
Learn more about how my team and I help progressive campaigns with digital ads and a whole lot more at joshklemons.com/politics, or drop us an email today and let’s chat.
You can also regularly find me on Twitter complaining about Facebook Ads. If you’re into that kind of thing, let’s connect!
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