The things you can’t (or are really hard to) advertise on social media

hand holding iphone with all the social icons on the screen

Launching a social media advertising campaign is no small feat, even for those of us who do this for a living. Despite our experience, there is a good bit that is unpredictable in this space.  For instance, we’ve had Hodges’ ads denied because we wrote about Black Lives Matter. Ads have been denied because the copy about career training was flagged for inappropriately promoting job opportunities. Then there were the occasions when identical ad copy was flagged one time but not the next.  Maddening.

At least for Facebook, when ads go into “review” after you hit publish, they go through a review process that includes both humans and artificial intelligence. If an ad is rejected, then you have to resubmit for another review. With so many approvals, reviews and rules, even the most well-intended ad campaigns can go off the rails.

Add a pandemic, stir in some purported election pandering and sprinkle in a dose of a social justice movement into the mix, and launching an ad just isn’t as simple as it used to be.

If your remote marketing strategy is heavy on digital promotion, here are some of the advertising road blocks you may or may not know about.


There are 30 types of ads that are prohibited (e.g. Multilevel Marketing and Controversial Content) and 13 kinds of ads are that are restricted (e.g. Alcohol and Gambling). Where the latter is concerned, one of those restricted ad types is “Social Issues, Elections or Politics.”

We ran into this particular hurdle when we strategized and launched campaigns for VAratifyERA and Equality Virginia. There is an ad authorization process you must go through that requires you to send in a photo of your driver’s license and confirm a code that is mailed to your physical address. This process took a couple of weeks, so if you’re looking to advertising in this area (particularly between now and Nov. 3), get rocking and rolling on that NOW.


There are over 20 different restricted or prohibited ad content categories. Twitter does NOT allow political ads, which made big news after election day in 2019. There are some exceptions in this space for news media of the political nature, but there are several thresholds that need to be met.

Originally, cause-based promotion was part of the political ad ban, but now, it’s just heavily restricted. For example, you can target Virginians to read a blog post about voter access, but you cannot engage Richmonders in the 23220 ZIP code about filling out a petition to remove the Robert E. Lee monument.


Some members of the Hodges #socialadsquad attended a kickoff conversation with a representative from TikTok – which has just launched its self-serve advertising platform for brands and organizations. And while the organic content, fueled by the passions of Gen Z, are heavy in the political and advocacy space (or maybe that just tells you what corner of TikTok I live in), paid advertising in this world is a no-no.

We can’t share the rate cards here, but because the platform is so new and advertising is still in its infancy, there is a definite pay-to-play threshold. You’re not advertising $1/day here.


As you can imagine there are restrictions on LinkedIn, too. But the language about the categories that aren’t allowed are definitely more geared towards the business community (like fraud, copyright infringement and fake documents and services).

Knock on wood, but so far, LinkedIn has given us the least amount of trouble over the years when launching a social media advertising campaign.

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Casey Prentice

A self-proclaimed organizational junkie and data geek who confesses to a secret desire to be a professional organizer, Casey enjoys account management, writing, editing and digital content strategy. Her agency work has helped clients like Virginia’s Community Colleges, VCUarts and Swedish Match.

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