How Twitter’s Ban on Political Ads Affects Your Business

Michael Ray

STIR | Social Media Director
Dec 4

This blog is part one of a three-part series discussing social media ad restrictions driven by the increase of political advertising on social media. Each part will discuss how to ensure compliance and avoid time-consuming, revenue-draining bans/disruptions to your marketing efforts.

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey announced a new Twitter policy that bans all political ads on the platform. A few weeks later, Twitter revealed what the framework for that policy actually looks like—a full-out global ban on the paid promotion of political content of any type from political figures like candidates, political parties and government officials. Twitter also added new restrictions on what it calls “cause-based” ads, which are now more limited restricted in terms of targeted advertising and require a certification process to run.

Given that politicians haven’t historically leveraged Twitter Ads to promote their campaigns ($3 million spent on Twitter Ads in 2018 vs. $284 million on Facebook Ads, source: finance.yahoo.com), this move probably won’t register as more than a wrinkle for political campaigns. But for the thousands of advertisers who rely on the social media network to promote their businesses and drive revenue, these additional restrictions could seriously disrupt their marketing efforts. 

What this means for businesses

The additional restrictions Twitter is placing on “cause-based” ads has the potential to seriously limit how advertisers can target consumers—stripping away zip code targeting, some behavioral targeting, age targeting and other parameters. Twitter defines these “cause-based” ads as those that “educate, raise awareness, and/or call for people to take action in connection with civic engagement, economic growth, environmental stewardship, or social equity causes.”

For nonprofit businesses, this means using Twitter Ads for localized efforts like driving people to a neighborhood job fair or to make a donation can’t be targeted to just the people in the neighborhood or specific ages who might benefit from a particular effort—say a Senior Center event. Fundraising efforts for those organizations may also falter, given that location, age and other demographic information is often used to reach sympathetic parties.

This policy calls for-profit businesses out as well, stating that ads  “must be tied to the organization’s publicly stated values, principles, and/or beliefs.” Given the broadness of the language here, that policy leaves a lot of room open for interpretation and makes compliance hard to navigate. 

Additionally, Twitter heavily relies on automation to approve or disapprove ad campaigns which is, by definition, an imperfect system. Ads that simply contain the word “education” could, in theory, be flagged. A local restaurant doing a “Toys for Tots” fundraiser could be flagged as well because it’s a community call-to-action. A national corporation trying to conduct a job fair at its facility also could be flagged. 

And with that ‘flagging,’ those campaigns could be rejected and everyday businesses could then be labeled as “cause-based” by Twitter—meaning they’ll have to become certified as well, which could delay ad campaign launches, resulting in additional restrictions and end up costing a lot of extra money and headaches.  

Where do we go from here

Given all the potential challenges these new policies and regulations create, you might wonder where your business should go from here. Should you change the way you create content for Twitter Ads campaigns? Adjust your targeting strategy? Not advertise on Twitter at all? 

The truth is that no matter the social network, there will always be new policies and regulations being introduced. In our next blog in this series, we will discuss some ways you can navigate these new changes.

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