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210: Why Facebook Blocked HiBid

Last week, some of you saw my post in the Auction Technology and Marketing group on Facebook. For those who didn’t, I showed the screenshot you see below. To save you some squinting, it was a notification from Facebook that my pixel was turned off on all HiBid sites on which it was installed.

Facebook Blocked Data HiBid

This notification came after I had rebated hundreds of dollars to clients when their ads didn’t perform. I hadn’t noticed, because there were no Facebook notifications to warn me. There were no notifications—because the ads weren’t rejected. My ads weren’t turned off. Just my pixel was. So, any ads based on web traffic were running—just to nobody.

The pixel was deactivated because of inappropriate content on the platform. That could be alcohol, tobacco, pornography, marijuana, or any of the short list of items Facebook doesn’t want to be legally responsible for promoting. My guess, though, is that it was firearms; but I don’t know that for sure.

What I do know is that I’ve been warning for several years now that this day was coming. The Facebook advertiser platform analyzes not only the content of the ads but also the content of the pages to which they’re linked. In this 2017 post, I showed in writing from a Facebook employee that this policy would include entire sites. I advised to get guns off auction websites onto their own, dedicated sites or at least out of the same catalogs. Not wanting to take drastic measures, most did the latter. Others stopped using me for Facebook services for any assets.

Now, some can’t use Facebook’s full suite of tools because of that partial remedy.

What's Next sticky note

This isn’t an I-told-you-so post, though. This is a call to fully adapt sooner rather than later. We’ve all got more time on our hands right now—more than usual for this time of year. This is a great time to buy some URLs like [company]gunauction.com or [company]firearms.com or [company]secondamendment.com. This is a convenient few weeks to watch a couple YouTube videos and then build a Squarespace or Word Press website for your gun sales or to hire that work to be done. We all have time now to go back through our archives and remove all gun auctions or firearm lots from our current site. Your web developer can do a quick and cheap find-and-replace for all mentions of those banned items.

Today, it’s HiBid. Tomorrow it could be Proxibid or Auction Services, MarkNet or United Country. It could even be your proprietary site. Despite the negative impact of this cultural shutdown, we have an unprecedented opportunity to head off a future problem at this pass. You can say some words about Facebook that can’t be aired on broadcast television, or you can gain a competitive advantage on other auctioneers. 

We can have bigger conversations down the road about creating a firearm-centric platform for all auctioneers, maybe even one with a shared email system. Time and money spent on lobbying lawmakers probably won’t change this. We’ll only break our tiny selves on the rocks of protest. We’ll save future commissions best by investing in adaptation.

Please know this isn’t a political platform for me. I design advertising for legal weapons—just not on the Facebook platform. Just two weeks ago, an East Coast client emailed this about my campaign for her gun auction:

“The email lists and blast for the firearms was a huge success! We had 130+ bidders from all over the US; 72 buyers! Sale brought 10K more than the sellers precaution estimate.”

So, I want to help you make the most of firearms in your estates and consignment sales. More so, I want to help you make bank on real estate and equipment auctions. We all make way more money on the latter than on weapons. For me, it’s an easy math problem. Either we (1) pass on the deals with guns, (2) partner with gun shops to take on deals we need, or (3) adapt our marketing to avoid changing what we sell. Gun auctions account for a small fraction of one percent of my income. The same holds true for many of my clients

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If that’s not true for you, I implore you to consider what your gun auctions might cost you. More importantly, if you use a shared bidding platform, I’d ask you to consider what commission you might be risking for your professional peers. Like with this Coronavirus reality in which we’re living, the person you’ll save with your precautions is probably someone else. For all of my auctioneer friends who’ve been posting about getting the economy going again to save businesses, I’d look at your potential to help the auction industry do just that in the long term.

This isn’t a matter of if but when. We’ll have to make these changes now or later. If you “shelter in place” your gun content now, we’ll all get back to a new normal sooner.

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