Meta Ads Not Working? Work With it, Not Against It.

Posted by JJ Young on
Graduate of Duquesne University. Future Influencer. Plays in too many bands. Wrestling mark. Shoe collection that would impress your mom. Always hungry.

Quick Summary: The article "Meta Ads Not Working? Work With It -- Not Against It" discusses the challenges advertisers face with Meta’s (formerly Facebook) advertising platform, including issues with ad campaigns being taken down, sensitivity of machine learning algorithms, and bot account crackdowns. It offers solutions like generalizing ads, using special ad categories, and diligently monitoring assets. Despite these challenges, the article emphasizes that Meta remains a crucial platform due to its vast user base and potential for successful advertising.

Rolling with the Punches from A Platform That Seems To Only Be Working Against Us

Whether you’re a beginner or an expert advertiser on social media, Meta is always throwing curveballs. 

Their issues could be attributed to their ongoing legal battles involving privacy, countless child safety lawsuits, or even overcompensating with their security because of a rampant bot problem. With the US Government actively working to bolster our online privacy through APRA (American Privacy Rights Act), we know the internet (especially advertising through it) isn’t the Wild West anymore. 

Even with all those issues accumulating, new features are pushed through regularly – like advantage+ creative, budgeting, and targeting. These claim to be improvements, but still can seem unproven and limiting. Is this all a smoke screen distraction for the deterioration of what was once the powerhouse of all social media? Meta has faced several issues this year alone; including a widespread outage on March 5, malfunctioning and overspending “AI tools”, and countless other platform-centric problems that have bred distrust amongst advertisers for the platform. This year alone advertisers have seen CPM’s inflate to nearly 7x what they’d usually be, cost caps totally ignored by the platform, and gross overspends that are yielding very underwhelming results. 

But let’s face it, the reality is that Meta Ads are still a necessary headache for those in certain markets to spend our advertising dollars – and you can still make it work doing so. A strong Facebook ads manager needs to be calculated, cautious, and flexible, and allow the platform (and its unpredictable limitations) to work for you, not the other way around. Meta has some good things going for it. Facebook and Instagram boast the largest number of users of any other social media platform – approximately 5,065 Million users combined, even though they deleted 27 billion fake accounts since 2017. 

The potential is still there for success. For many verticals, the population of users on Meta is a viable group of users to advertise to. So how do we work around the obstacles that Meta Ads surprise us with? How can we effectively use a platform that is constantly (albeit unintentionally) working against us?

Problem: Your Ad Campaigns Are Being Taken Down

Meta’s machine learning can be very sensitive these days, and can often derail a campaign launch, so your ad campaigns must fit in the confines that Facebook has set for us. One of those confines is special ad categories. 

These categories include: 

  • Credit
  • Employment
  • Housing
  • Social Issues, Elections or Politics

While those categories may sound somewhat self-explanatory, the machines that are used by Meta to police the creative being posted on their platform can often incorrectly flag innocuous ad creative and jeopardize the launch of a campaign. For example, a creative that contains an offer with a dollar amount like “get $10 off” will be considered a “credit opportunity” and will not run. 

ABOVE: An example of an ad that has been wrongly rejected, citing “Financial and Insurance Products and Services” and remained unchanged after an appeal. Obviously, this ad is not selling insurance products or services. 

Is The Facebook Appeals Process Worth It? 

Meta suggests proceeding with an appeal process when things like this happen, but their appeal process seldom yields productive results. Very regularly ads can get stuck in appeal purgatory and never advance because there are never human eyes examining the appellate claims.

To make matters worse, an excessive amount of appeal claims for rejected ads can hurt your ad account status, and once you lose an ad account, you can never get it back. Personal interactions with actual humans at Meta have not generated answers for this new issue.

Solution #1: Proceed With Caution And Generalize Your Ads

Do this as much as the scope of your campaigns/clients allow. Anything you can do to not trigger Meta’s bots and keep your workflow smooth is advantageous. Using ad creative with a lesser emphasis on the actual “dollar amount” of an offer, and a greater emphasis on the other CTAs and incentives can prove effective. A creative piece with a large dollar sign may be recognized and flagged as a “credit opportunity” even though it has nothing to do with credit at all. For example, the ad below showcases a $59 offer for a water softener, but because the ad creative contains a dollar amount the creative was repeatedly rejected despite multiple appeals, so that forced the campaign to be moved into a special ad category. Each rejection cited “ discriminatory practices” despite not being at all controversial or divisive in any way. 

ABOVE: An ad that was repeatedly wrongfully rejected, and needed to have its campaign shifted to a special ad category to run.

Solution #2: Bite The Bullet And Run Under The Special Credit Ad Category

…even if it’s not applicable. Doing this allows for almost carte blanche permission to run whatever offer was getting flagged previously. The caveat, however, is that under special categories your targeting permissions are even more limited than they were previously. Location targeting can only be in 15 radiuses, age targeting is all but removed, and detailed targeting gets stripped back even further. This is often the most viable option if there is limited wiggle room in the campaign objective and creativity.

Problem: Bot Account Crackdowns Gone Wrong

Facebook, in particular, has been attempting to “crackdown” on the enormous amount of bot accounts that populate their platform, but their response to this often affects real people, not just fake bot accounts. It’s reasonable to assume this is only going to get worse as we approach the 2024 Presidential Election. Bots can account for as much as 40% of all online traffic, which makes the current state of Internet marketing somewhat volatile and unpredictable.

A growing amount of Facebook users are finding their accounts are being wrongfully shut down due to pages they’re connected to, Instagram accounts they use, or even groups they’re a part of. These restrictions are frustrating, especially because Facebook support is generally nonexistent on these kinds of issues. 

There are plenty of unexpected issues to keep an eye on: 

  • Meta ad campaigns can get flagged or result in an error long after publishing, which will cause the ad to not serve and spend. 
  • Facebook pixels (now referred to as “data sets”) can receive errors or disconnect without warning. Facebook pages can be unpublished. 
  • “Restrictions” are placed on Facebook user accounts, which affects users’ ability to post to pages, manage pages (like assigning admins, altering information, etc.), and other features. 

A restricted account means there’s no way to manage the pages through that account until the restriction expires. Facebook has been wrongly restricting accounts citing that there have been “violations to community standards”, and usually applies some sort of arbitrary amount of time that an account is restricted.

ABOVE: What you’ll see if your Facebook account is restricted. In this scenario, a restriction was placed on this account for over a year. You can check your Facebook account status here. 

Community Violations – What Can You Do? 

For those of us who are admins of dozens of pages, Facebook restrictions can most likely occur when a Facebook page is “unpublished” due to inactivity, which triggers a “community violation”, and restricts your account. “Community violations” are meant to police Meta’s platforms for hate speech, misinformation, harassment, and other contentious language. 

But Facebook’s algorithm has become so sensitive and off base that a violation can be triggered by even the most harmless event. When a page restriction happens, Meta offers up an option to appeal the decision, and then no follow-up or further actions can be taken, besides attempting to contact Meta support. 

This also hurts organic social programming, and our social media publishers’ ability to post scheduled content. The only way to manage this is to access your pages through other Facebook accounts or create dummy Facebook accounts (which isn’t ideal or recommended).

Solution #3: Monitor Your Assets Diligently 

With the volatility of Meta advertising in mind, it’s crucial to keep a watchful eye on all essential Meta assets. This includes:

  • Your business manager
  • Facebook pages
  • Ads accounts
  • Instagram accounts

Unexpectedly losing any of these assets would be detrimental to any kind of campaign objectives and client deliverables. The best practice is to monitor your ad campaigns daily, but also make sure you’re logging into your Facebook Business portfolios weekly to confirm nothing is out of the ordinary. Set up email notifications in your business portfolio settings. Facebook will send you an email if a payment fails or something can’t run because of a restriction, but if it’s something their own bots have done mistakenly, it is likely something you’ll see the results of before being notified for it, and you will have to search for a problem instead of being notified about it. 

Solution #4: Keep Your House Clean

Be diligent by keeping a clean house:

  • Delete pages that you don’t manage or that are outdated
  • Check all campaigns and pages once a day
  • Keep an eye out for emails from Meta
  • Keep your pages active organically 
  • Remove your admin access to pages you no longer manage

Even for an account that may be discontinuing service with a chance to return in the future, it’s far easier to remove access now, eliminate the chance of a restriction to your account, and re-gain access in the future if need be.

Keeping an attentive eye on these assets is a net positive for the overall health of your social media programming. Don’t set it and forget it.

Adapting To Change

 As time goes on, Meta is going to continue to change, and it’s up to us to make sure we’re on top of the trends as they come through. Some are largely beneficial, like continued creative optimization, and some are a downgrade, like added limitations to detailed targeting. 

As platforms like TikTok continue to rise in popularity as a place to serve ads, many businesses will invest elsewhere, but Meta isn’t going anywhere. With the largest base of users over all its competitors, and still showing substantial results when compared to its competitors, Facebook and Instagram ads are a hot commodity. Meta shows their value by keeping their prices competitive – averaging roughly $.25 cost per click and $2 CPM. All in all, Meta ads are the most widely used and affordable option for any level of advertising when compared to its competitors, which is an attractive option for advertising for any industry.

Knowing how to navigate a very challenging platform like Meta tests your patience, but it’s worth the hassle to have good standing with Facebook and advertise effectively. An effective Facebook ads manager should be strategic, cautious, and adaptable, leveraging the platform’s strengths and navigating its unpredictable limitations to their advantage.