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!