If you’ve spent any time in marketing discussion groups, you’ve probably heard how difficult it can be to get Facebook to approve your ads … depending on which industry you’re in.
You may have thought: “Zuckerberg sure seems like a tyrant who hates marketers.”
But when you look at ads from Facebook’s point of view, things seem a lot more reasonable.
When you understand this perspective, you will see how seemingly small nuances in your writing can make the difference between ads that run and get you results … and ads that no Facebook user will ever see.
By the way, just so we’re clear: I am not a representative of Facebook. The advice I’m giving you here is completely from the perspective of a marketer who writes ads for their platform. And the copy examples are just to show the concepts — don’t take them as word-for-word prescriptions.
Also, I’m not really going to talk about “tricks.” Instead, I’ll show you a few ethical, effective strategies that I’ve seen work well.
Cool? Okay … let’s do this.
What Facebook needs to optimize for
As every United States senator now (hopefully) understands, Facebook makes money by running ads.
The more time you spend on Facebook, the more ads Facebook can show you.
The more comfortable you are on Facebook — the better your “user experience” — the more time you’ll spend on the platform.Think of Facebook as an online cafe.
People are consuming a product, but they’re mainly just hanging out.
Now, imagine some guy going into a cafe, walking up to customers, and starting really invasive conversations.
To one customer, the man asks, “Are you sick of your embarrassing acne?”
The customer, who was feeling great before, now feels embarrassed — called out for the acne they’ve been struggling with and hoped people didn’t notice.
To another customer, the man asks, “Do you hate your love handles?” and follows up with, “I know how frustrating it is to struggle to find clothes that help you hide that stubborn fat.”
The customer instantly feels horrible. They were having a good time. Now they can’t stop thinking about their weight struggles.
To another customer, the man asks, “Are you a 35-year-old woman living in Denver? Are you worried that you’ll never find love or have children?”
The customer is totally creeped out. How did this total stranger know that she’s 35 years old, lives in Denver, and is single without kids?
If you owned this cafe, how long would you wait before you banned this intrusive jerk from your establishment?
You’d bounce him as soon as you caught wind of this, right? Because if you didn’t nip this in the bud, your cafe would become known as a place to feel uncomfortable or even insulted.
Clearly, this could drive people out of your cafe … perhaps never to return.
The big difference, of course, is that on Facebook, the advertiser is the paying customer. But if people stop showing up to hang out, business will dry up.
Advertisers optimize for conversions, website clicks, page post engagement, and other business goals.
Facebook needs to optimize for retention.
They need people to enjoy their time on Facebook enough to keep coming back again (and again).
Allowing advertisers to make users uncomfortable and feel terrible about themselves would be a very dumb move on Facebook’s part.
“Good” copy can be a bad idea … when it’s used in the wrong context
A lot of marketers struggle with writing ads that get approved because they treat Facebook as a more traditional copywriting venue.
They follow classic copywriting advice like:
“I need to dive deep into their pain!”
That can be a great idea if they’re on your turf — maybe reading your sales page or attending your webinar.
But Facebook isn’t your turf. So when you interrupt someone’s news feed and start making assumptions about them on a sensitive topic, it comes across as invasive and insulting.
It can also mean your ad will be disapproved.
The more sensitive your topic is, the more finesse you need to apply to avoid making the user feel singled out.
“Don’t like hot weather? Come check out one of our swimming pools!” is a pretty neutral topic — and a lot less invasive than “Sick of your ugly belly fat? Come in for a weight loss consultation today!”
Since it’s more difficult to get ads for sensitive topics approved, you’ll see incorrect statements circulating like, “the word ‘you’ isn’t allowed in Facebook ads” or “weight loss ads never get approved.”
These mistaken notions arise from people not understanding why their ad wasn’t approved, and not having a good set of troubleshooting strategies when an ad gets disapproved.
It’s not that the words “you” or “weight loss” are outlawed. It’s that when you avoid them, you are by default less likely to write an ad that comes across as invasive.
But the inclusion of those words doesn’t necessarily make an ad invasive. And memorizing a list of “forbidden words and phrases” isn’t…