Back in July, there were murmurings of a Facebook ad boycott on all political ads. Social media marketing for politics is always tricky to navigate, but what are the implications of banning political ads on Facebook in the first place? And what could it mean for your business? Moreover, how can you ensure that your political ads showcase your platform while still adhering to social media best practices?
What Is the Facebook Boycott?
Banning political ads on Facebook has been under discussion since last fall, but it really became a hot topic this past month. Given the political climate, Facebook considered banning ads specifically in the days leading up to the November election. The boycott push was compounded by the level of criticism Facebook has faced for allowing politicians to run false or misleading ads. Many wanted Facebook to remain neutral on such topics, and others suggested that “misleading information” in these ads was a slippery slope into “hate speech.”
To put it in perspective: Twitter banned political ads last year, but Facebook has yet to follow. According to Twitter’s CEO, political messages should “be earned, not bought.” Even Facebook’s founder, Mark Zuckerberg, has gone back and forth on whether his platform should take a page out of Twitter’s book.
What Was Facebook’s Ultimate Decision Regarding Political Ads?
There’s no easy answer to which political ads are “acceptable” or “correct,” which is one of the big reasons Zuckerberg vetoed the Facebook ban. After all, it’s unclear where the cutoff for a “political ad” even exists in the first place. For actual banned content, such as violence, there tends to be a clear indicator when it doesn’t fall within acceptable guidelines for a family-friendly platform.
Political ads run such a gamut of topics—from immigration to women’s issues, LGBTQ+ rights, environmentalism, and more. Many of these subjects have become political, but they don’t necessarily endorse a single politician. However, we can’t ignore that these ads come from platforms and organizations with clear goals, whether you agree with them or not. After all, every business—even the nonpolitical ones—have an agenda of some sort.
Zuckerberg also cited how relevant political ads are to our country’s collective voice. Local candidates and other grassroots organizations, for example, are most likely not getting coverage in The Washington Post or People magazine. If we leave it up to big-name news outlets to decide what’s covered, these candidates could get lost in the sea of more prominent, vocal political platforms.
In short? No, as of now, political ads have not been banned on Facebook. However, if such ads do contain blatant hate speech, they will continue to be taken down.
Social Media Marketing for Politics: Best Practices
If we’ve learned anything from the Facebook boycott, it’s that navigating digital marketing for politics is no easy task. In light of this, let’s review some of the best practices when launching political digital ad campaigns below:
1. Don’t Forget to Fact-Check
This may seem like a given, as the Internet age has made us all skeptics on some level. Still, a surprising number of people would be willing to believe an ad speaks the truth simply because it was paid for and run by a popular social media outlet. That’s not to say that you’d assume that “X Candidate is the Best” simply because an ad said so—we’re talking about the quotes and statistics run in those ads, as long as they sound legitimate enough.
When fact-checking your ads, double, triple, and quadruple check your sources. Hire a team of editors or arrange for an approval process before running your political ad. You owe it to your audience to share information responsibly.
2. Ask Questions & Respond to Them
What better way to boost social engagement than by asking questions? We love a good Q&A for solidifying your current platform and swaying an undecided voter or two. You can share your organization’s beliefs and keep the social media emphasis on “social.”
If you want to appeal to a younger audience, consider hosting a Q&A on Instagram Live. After all, more than half of IG’s users are under the age of 34, which means you’ll capture the interest of millennials and Gen Z-ers alike. If you want to reach a more mature audience, Facebook and even LinkedIn are ideal platforms for your messaging.
3. Emphasize the Positive (While Still Addressing the Real Issues)
Political tensions are through the roof these days. In fact, that anxiety is why it’s crucial to break up that partisan content with something a little more lighthearted now and again. If you’re a local candidate, this might mean sharing an inspiring local story that would warm an audience’s hearts, regardless of your political stance. Or what about a holiday post to bring communities together in celebration? Just be sure to maintain that fine balance by addressing the important issues, too.
Navigate the Changing Political Tides With Snap Agency
We know firsthand just how challenging it can be to use digital marketing in politics. Fortunately, we’re well-versed in navigating these choppy waters. Whether you want to create a balanced social media content calendar, edit your facts and turns of phrase, host an Instagram Live, or something else, we can’t wait to help. Send us a message today, and we’ll get you started.