Understanding the Advertising Guidelines for 5 of the Top Social Networks

(@krspeier) |

When looking for a way to ramp up your business’ social media presence, one of the first and most effective places to look is through promoted posts or advertising. Consumers are so connected to mobile devices and other digital technologies that they play a largely influential role in the purchasing process. Think about the products or services you’ve discovered on social media – items that you may never have known about if it weren’t for following a company or seeing their ad in your news feeds.

Now think about how your purchasing decisions were influenced by social ads, specifically. Were you more likely to buy that product or utilize that service? For many, the answer is “yes.” Social media ads can be more specifically targeted to an audience based on location, pages or accounts that are liked or followed, or even recent queries in search engines. So the likelihood of a user seeing an ad that doesn’t pertain to them is quite low. This also gets your company the best bang for its advertising buck by not wasting funds on users who aren’t interested in what you have to offer.

In addition, social media ads are often responded to in a more positive manner than traditional advertising mediums like television and radio because they’re generally less interruptive. If you are scrolling through your Facebook feed and an ad appears, you can just keep scrolling and ignore it if you’re not interested. However, if you’re listening to the radio and an ad comes on, you have to change to another station to avoid it. And when you switch that station, you may land on another one that is playing an ad you don’t want to listen to either. It’s a seemingly endless cycle that often adds frustration to your listening experience.

Once you’ve decided that social media advertising fits into your budget and strategy, it’s important to make sure that you adhere to each network’s policy. While most platforms agree on several major issues, such as prohibiting the marketing of illegal substances, there are several areas where they differ.

Facebook and Instagram

With Facebook catering to such a large and unique audience around the world, their advertising policy is among the most accommodating of social networks. If you promote a legal product or service in an honest and appropriate manner with a link to a relevant landing page, you shouldn’t run into any issues. It’s also important to note that for the time being, Instagram has adopted Facebook’s guidelines for its own network, but will be rolling out a specific policy in the near future. For those looking to advertise on both platforms, this makes your life a lot easier. If it’s approved on one, it should be approved on the other.

Where the majority of advertisers go wrong (and are ultimately not approved) is the proportion of text to visual content in the ad. The most important rule to be mindful of is that text cannot cover more than 20% of an image to prevent an ad from being visually unappealing or pushy. They understand that no one wants to read a paragraph of text, so they strictly hold their advertisers to this rule. Luckily, they’ve provided this handy grid tool so you can test your image before submitting it for review. The 20% rule does not include the text featured on the product being advertised (like a book or video game cover), but it does include logos, slogans, watermarks, etc.

However, it appears that Facebook is slowly eliminating the grid tool feature and relying on a more general guide to measuring the proportion of text to image. Rather than a strict 20% rule, they are going to start classifying image text as OK, Low, Medium, or High, with OK being the lowest amount of text featured. The more text you have on your ad, the smaller the audience that it will be shown to. And if your image is labeled as High text volume, it’s unlikely to display at all. This is still a new development and not all users are seeing it in Ads Manager just yet, but we will keep you posted on any updates or confirmations from Facebook as they are released.

In addition to an ad being text-heavy, another common reason why ads are rejected is due to an improper mention of Facebook or Instagram in the ad. You cannot use their logos or create one yourself, as that is copyrighted material. Any specific use of the companies in your text (such as for a promotion like “Facebook Fans Use the Promo Code…”) must be in the same font as the text surrounding it, as well as be properly spelled and capitalized. Finally, a third reason why an ad is rejected is due to content that is not appropriate to the target audience selected. For example, a liquor company trying to promote its vodka to an audience that includes U.S. users under the age of 21 will be declined. Simply adjust your target audience when setting up your ad to avoid this conflict.

Here are the specific guidelines to what is prohibited or restricted by Facebook and Instagram:

Prohibited Content

  • Illegal products or services
  • Illegal, prescription, or recreational drugs
  • Tobacco products
  • Weapons or explosives
  • Sexually provocative, vulgar, violent, or discriminatory content
  • Copyrighted or trademarked content used without the owner’s permission
  • Deceptive promotions and offers
  • Images with unrealistic “before-and-after” results
  • Payday loans or advances
  • Auto-play videos and images

Restricted Content

  • Alcohol ads can only be targeted to individuals of a legal drinking age in countries that permit it (consult Facebook’s policy for a complete list)
  • Dating services, online gambling, state lotteries, and online pharmacies require prior written permission from Facebook or Instagram
  • You cannot ask for any financial, insurance, health, political, or government-related identifiers without permission.

Twitter

Twitter’s advertising policy is similar to Facebook and Instagram in terms of what is prohibited or restricted, but you are free to determine the right proportion of text to visuals in your Promoted Tweets. They are also on the same page when it comes to protecting users from unrealistic or dishonest promotions, as well as observing any copyrights or trademarks. However, Twitter has the added responsibility of monitoring the hashtags that advertisers use in their tweets. It’s important to not only the advertiser, but to Twitter users that only relevant hashtags are included.

It’s tempting to want to jump on the most popular or current hashtag trends to get added visibility, but it will cause more harm than good almost every time. Twitter will most likely refuse your request to promote that particular tweet; and even if it does get approved, most users will probably dismiss it due to its irrelevance. So save yourself the trouble and seek out only those hashtags that promote your product or service to the right audience. To see what the best-performing hashtags are in your industry, check out a site like Hashtagify.

Twitter also has stricter requirements when it comes to promoting products with potentially outlandish guarantees or ads seeking user information. Advertisers cannot use any form of misleading or unrealistic language, which is an issue you commonly see with companies promoting the latest fad diet or way to quit smoking. You also must be upfront with users about why you would like them to fill out a form or submit their contact information, and only ask for information that is absolutely necessary to your initiative.

Consult the list below for a more detailed look at the prohibited and restricted content on Twitter:

Prohibited Content

  • Adult products and services
  • Illegal drugs and accessories
  • Endangered species products (e.g. elephant tusks)
  • Violent or hateful content
  • Spyware or hacking materials
  • Tobacco products
  • Unauthorized ticket sales for sporting events, concerts, etc.
  • Weapons
  • Any products or services impacted by U.S. trade sanctions

Restricted Content

  • Anything that can’t be legally purchased by minors (e.g. alcohol, tobacco, fireworks, tattoos, etc.)
  • Any financial service providers must explicitly state the potential risks of an investment and that there are no profit guarantees
  • Gambling and lottery services are prohibited in some countries, so consult Twitter’s policy for a complete list
  • Over-the-counter pharmaceuticals like Tylenol are prohibited in some countries
  • Any ads promoting a political campaign are indicated by a purple arrow on Twitter, and are prohibited entirely in Brazil, Morocco, Pakistan, and South Korea

LinkedIn

Due to the more formal and professional nature of LinkedIn, it’s no surprise that they would have some of the toughest guidelines. In addition to the previously stated rules regarding accurate representation of products, services, and copyrighted content, LinkedIn places a strong emphasis on proper grammar and spelling. It’s important to avoid slang, all caps, and texting acronyms like “Lol,” as well as using only one punctuation mark at the end of each sentence. No matter how enthusiastic you are about your product or service, don’t use three exclamation points to show that.

This helps maintain the professionalism of the network and appeal to the working professionals and students that make up its user base. To avoid overwhelming users, LinkedIn only allows one relevant link per ad and prohibits advertising as a means of collecting user information.

Here is a comprehensive list of prohibited and restricted content for advertisers:

Prohibited Content

  • Illegal products or services
  • Discriminatory hiring practices based on age, gender, religion, ethnicity, race, etc.
  • Limiting access to education based on discriminatory principles
  • Hate speech or violence
  • Vulgarity or slang
  • Sensitive or controversial topics such as financial status, criminal record, political affiliation, sexual orientation, etc.
  • Legal or illegal drugs, pharmaceuticals, etc.
  • Weapons or ammunition
  • Fireworks
  • Sexual or adult content
  • Illegal download of software, music, or other copyrighted content
  • Fake documents (e.g. certifications, college degrees, working permits, etc.)
  • Lotteries, gambling, bingo, etc.
  • Endangered species products
  • Products or services that could cause harm to a user’s health (e.g. binge drinking, eating disorders, etc.)

Restricted Content

  • Alcohol can only be marketed to those of a legal drinking age, and is prohibited in some countries
  • Tobacco products are prohibited, but products to help users quit smoking are permitted
  • Dating services can only be targeted to users 18 and older
  • Video games are allowed if they don’t contain adult or violent content

Pinterest

Due to the highly visual nature of Pinterest, the company is sensitive to how imagery is used to promote a product or service and has set specific guidelines to protect its users. They understand that people are heavily influenced by what they see, often more so than what they read, so they want to ensure that users are not negatively impacted. For example, many Pinterest users come to the network to uncover new workouts or healthy recipes. Health and wellness companies are strictly monitored on Pinterest to ensure that they are only promoting healthy lifestyles, and that advertised content doesn’t encourage risky or life-threatening behaviors to get a “perfect” body.

In addition, they emphasize a positive user experience by asking advertisers to only request user information that is of utmost importance to their marketing campaign and prohibiting affiliate links. Keeping data secure and protecting the privacy of their user base is of top priority. They also monitor ad feedback and remove any content that has received a lot of negative comments to maintain a quality network for users.

Pinterest is pretty cut and dried when it comes to advertising restrictions, so make sure your ads don’t fall into the categories below:

Prohibited Content

  • Overuse of hashtags
  • Prices for your products or services
  • Vulgarity or explicit content
  • Improper grammar or an overuse of capitalization or punctuation
  • Claiming affiliation with Pinterest or use of their logo
  • Promotional language in the advertised image (this is allowed in the description section as long as dates are included)
  • Calls-to-action
  • Testimonials or ratings
  • Inaccurate or misleading landing pages
  • Automatic downloads
  • Adult products and services, with the exception of family planning and contraception
  • Alcoholic beverages of any kind (products like wine glasses are permitted)
  • Tobacco products
  • Illegal drugs
  • Weight loss products or services that guarantee unrealistic results or do not take a “healthy lifestyle” approach
  • Pharmaceuticals deemed potentially unsafe (e.g. steroids)
  • Weapons or explosives of any kind (gun carrying cases or safes are permitted)
  • Gambling or lotteries
  • Imitation or counterfeit products
  • Endangered species products
  • Malware or hacking products

Restricted Content

  • Any alcohol-related ads must only target those of a legal drinking age and cannot promote the online sale of alcohol (e.g. wine or beer clubs)
  • If you’re hosting a contest on Pinterest, you cannot ask someone to vote with Pins or encourage spammy behavior
  • Only political candidates can promote campaigning ads and must comply with the Federal Election Commission’s guidelines

 

Social media gives advertisers a platform to reach millions of users in a place where they’re already looking for new or more information, and with that freedom comes specific policies to adhere to. These networks understand the potential value to both users and advertisers, as well as the fact that we aren’t as welcoming to ads as we were before Facebook existed. Balancing a user’s limited attention span with the importance of a brand’s presence on social media, these detailed guidelines have been created. Luckily, most of these platforms are pretty straightforward with what is and isn’t allowed. If you can stick to the rules mentioned above, you should not only get your ad approved, but you’ll reach a targeted, engaged audience that is looking for what you have to offer.

 

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About The Author:Kim Speier
Kim is an Inbound Marketing Specialist at Mainstreethost, a digital marketing agency in Buffalo, NY. She loves watching sports, especially the Bills and Sabres, skiing during the long Buffalo winters, pop culture, and following the latest trends on Twitter.