Income Lockdown

367: Are You Gambling With Your Future Commissions?

Last Monday morning, I released a controversial take on the firearms portion of Facebook’s advertising guidelines. Several in the auction industry wrote it off as a Chicken Little screech, a tinfoil-hat projection. Others wrote to tell me how they had found my assessment true for them.

The potential of that post didn’t wait any longer than the following Tuesday night. I arrived home around 10:30 to find my Ads Manager on lockdown. My advertising account had been shuttered without warning and with no explanation. All of my clients’ ads had been paused.

Facebook shutdown

This was bigger than an ad not being approved. This was a total inability to advertise on Facebook without creating a new user account, getting all of my clients to update their access permissions, and re-creating all of the custom audiences I’ve made. From what I read online by others who had suffered this fate, even those steps were sometimes not enough to get back up and running, as Facebook has measures in place to protect against serial offenders.

One Facebook advertising vendor wrote a detailed article specifically on this situation, noting that even the appeals process was a long shot. Apparently, many advertisers don’t even get specific explanations of what caused their account closure. The appeals process could take days just to get a response, let alone resolution.

The worst case scenarios would’ve cost me significant time and money. I was looking at losing the fastest-growing segment of my business, the only cost-effective tool I have for some auctions. I stood to lose confidence from my clients, prospects, and the professionals in my continuing education classes.

The exceptions from the horror stories I was reading came to those with a long track record with Facebook advertising, large Facebook spends, and a humble appeal. Thankfully, all of those criteria applied to me. My appeal email also explained how I had recently written a blog post to exhort others to comply with their advertising guidelines.

I went to bed at 1:30 Wednesday morning, anticipating tough conversations and difficult work when I returned to the office. Five hours later, I awoke for some urgent pro bono work before breakfast. Before I got out of bed I checked my Facebook Ads app on my phone to discover that—miraculously—not only had my account been reinstated, but my clients’ ads had all resumed.

I jogged upstairs to my office. My inbox held two emails from Facebook: one welcoming me back to good standing and the other explaining why my account had been shuttered. I kid you not: firearms violations.

Ironic, right? I still don’t know what post or ad triggered the closure. It might have even been my unpromoted post of last Monday’s article. Apparently, the situation struck Facebook’s evaluators as bigger than just an unapproved ad, which I’ve encountered multiple times for clients. My activity was unacceptable behavior.

So, hear me again. Putting firearms in your farm, estate, and liquidation auction catalogs has the very real potential of hijacking your Facebook advertising for your non-firearm assets.

If you believe in Facebook as a marketing tool, consider playing by their rules. If you acknowledge that culture is moving away from newsprint to digital media, understand that adaptation is more than just a format issue. If you want to keep cost-efficient mass promotion in the tool box, consider how you use your tools.

While my company will gladly still design direct mail, newsprint ads, and banner ads for auctions with firearms, I will no longer create Facebook advertising for auctions with guns in the catalog. The stakes are too high for me. Take time to evaluate whether they are for you, too.

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