Facebook Political Ads Affect Law Firms

How Changes to Facebook’s Political Advertising Policy Affects Law Firms

Since Facebook updated its algorithm at the beginning of 2018, Pages have continued to see a steady decline in organic reach. The rate of organic reach dropped 34% after the update, and that was after a prior 20% decline in 2017. We’ve discussed the need to spend more on Facebook ads in light of these changes to the advertising policy in order for your law firm’s content to reach users on this channel. Utilizing a boosted post strategy – where you pay to target designated users with your posts, even though they are not following your law firm’s Page – can drastically improve engagement as well as drive more traffic to your law firm website.

Unfortunately, recent updates to Facebook’s advertising policy are creating unique challenges for the legal industry. Because legal industry and law firm news articles and blog posts contain keywords relating to law, courts, judges, and the like, Facebook’s artificial intelligence mechanism often flags the content as “political” – even if it has nothing to do with politics. Why should this matter? Simply put, Facebook’s attempt to address the onslaught of political misinformation has instead created barriers for law firms and lawyers seeking to boost their content.

Facebook’s First Attempt at Controlling Political Spam

In April 2018, around the same time as Mark Zuckerberg’s testimony before Congress, Facebook rolled out a new verification process for running political ads on its platform. It required anyone wishing to run a political ad to verify their identity (using a government-issued ID) and residential mailing address, as well as disclose who was paying for the ads. When I undertook this process, I simply had to provide a scan of my driver’s license and then enter an alphanumeric code online that had been mailed to my home address.

Once an administrator for your Page completed this process, however, it was pretty straightforward from there. If Facebook happened to flag a boosted post as political – for instance, a blog post from your website titled, “New Texas Law Impacts Hurricane Insurance Recovery for Commercial Property Owners” – the verified page administrator simply had to check a box stating the content was political in nature, and a light grey line of text appeared next to “Sponsored” claiming the ad was “Paid for by XYZ Law Firm.”

While somewhat inconvenient, the advertising policy still allowed law firms to boost articles related to their practice areas that Facebook might erroneously identify as political in nature. The verification process was relatively simple and required very little time or energy.

….And Then Everything Changed In November 2019

In the lead up to the 2020 presidential election, Facebook continues to come under intense scrutiny for political ads and misinformation on its platform. It therefore overhauled the political ad verification process at the beginning of November – and it is now much more intensive.

In order to receive authorization to run political ads, at least one Page administrator must still go through the previously established verification process. Once completed, he or she must submit additional information about the business, including one of these three options:

  1. Tax-registered: an employer identification number (EIN) and business details must be provided.
  2. Government organization: a government website and email address (.gov or .mil domain).
  3. Federal Election Commission (FEC) registered: requires a valid FEC identification number.

For law firms wishing to become verified to run political ads, option one is your only choice. This will require uploading a document confirming your law firm’s EIN, organization name, address, and phone number. Facebook also sends automated emails and phone calls with verification codes, which must be input within a set time period. Once all of these steps are completed, Facebook then reviews your documentation and either accepts or rejects your application.

So What Does This Mean For Law Firms?

For law firms following best practices and boosting their Facebook posts, it’s likely an occasional post will be flagged as political by Facebook’s algorithm. Law firms can either: a) undergo the above process to become a “Confirmed Organization” compliant with Facebook’s advertising policy, or b) shy away from blog post titles that might appear political in nature.

Option B is certainly the easier course of action, and simply requires a bit of creative thinking. The following keywords tend to get flagged by Facebook, so avoiding these should help your law firm largely steer clear of the algorithm:

  • “New law”
  • “Court” or “Supreme Court”
  • “Legislature” or “government”

In our previously mentioned example blog post title – “New Texas Law Impacts Hurricane Insurance Recovery for Commercial Property Owners” – a better title would be: “Hurricane Insurance Recovery for Commercial Property Owners Impacted by Legal Changes.”

Looking for Help With Your Law Firm’s Social Media?

Keeping up-to-date with Facebook’s ever-evolving platform and advertising standards requires a significant time investment, which most law firms and attorneys don’t have. Find out how the experienced digital marketing team at Stacey E. Burke, P.C. can help your law firm grow its social media presence. Contact us today.

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