Are you election ready on Facebook?

As we enter a likely general election, many unions will be thinking how they can get their issues across more clearly online during such a high profile campaign moment.

Social advertising has become a key battleground in modern election campaigns. Paying to target your messages to the people you want to reach can be one of the quickest and best ways to get your voice heard – whether that’s groups of your own members or particular demographics who might be interested in your campaigns.

But in an age of fake news, illegal data gathering and dodgy foreign funding to influence elections, tech and social advertising companies have been forced to take some steps to clean up their act. Recent changes at Facebook to make political advertising more transparent are welcome, even if they don’t go far enough. Watchdogs and journalists can now see some detail about social ads that contain political messaging, who is paying for them, and who they are trying to target (for more background, have a look at the transparency in advertising campaign WhoTargetsMe?). 

This means that organisations who still want to use social channels to advertise during elections now have to cross a number of hurdles. Organisations need to register specifically for political advertising if they want their ads approved – a process that can take some time. This even applies if you’re just paying to promote posts to your own followers, something that many page admins will take for granted.

Of course, unions are all regulated differently in what they can say during an election period and what they can spend, depending on whether or not they have a political fund and if they are registering to campaign during that particular period. 

That is all separate from and taking precedence over Facebook’s own regulations, so you’ll need to work with your public affairs leads to decide what you can and can’t do on Facebook or elsewhere. If you’re a Labour affiliated union, also check TULO’s guidance. 

But supposing you are planning to run ads or boost posts with messaging that concerns elections or politics, and you aren’t already set up for this on Facebook, here’s what you need to do as soon as possible.

Anyone at your union who is going to place these ads needs to be verified themselves, as well as the page admin who will be registering the organisation overall. 

Each ad user will need to follow these steps, which can be accessed from the settings page in your union’s Facebook page (click Page settings, then Authorisations):

  • Enable two factor authentication for their own Facebook account. This means registering a mobile device that can receive a unique code when you log in, to help Facebook verify that it’s you.
  • Fill out the identity confirmation process. You need to confirm you’re based at a UK address. You must upload a picture of photo ID – UK or EU passport, UK driving licence or UK residence permit. Facebook will verify this information (and say they’ll delete it after 30 days).
  • Receive a letter from Facebook, with a code to confirm you’re picking up post at the given address. That can slow things down a lot as Facebook suggests it will arrive in up to 10 days.

Then a page admin for your page will need to link any ad accounts that will pay for your page’s adverts. Each page will need a “Paid for by” disclaimer added, to explain to users who is funding the adverts. The disclaimer will need to give contact information for your union, and you’ll need to verify the email you add by receiving a code on it and typing it in. The page’s ad account will also need to be billed in pounds sterling and at least one payment method for any ads will need to be via a UK bank.

Your union’s Instagram account may also need authorising too if you want to extend ads to Instagram as well as Facebook, but your union’s profile on the two networks doesn’t match. This can take 24 hours to approve.

Finally, when you’re done, your ads and boosts on Facebook will get an extra option – a tickbox that “This ad relates to politics or an issue of national importance”. By default, it will automatically be ticked for your page.

For more detail on this process, there’s a long help page at Facebook.

But the main takeaways are:

  1. It will take up to two weeks if you aren’t registered already, so start now if you think you may need to use it.
  2. And it needs doing for everyone who might run ads. Don’t leave it to just one user – if they’re not available you might be locked out of running ads if there’s not a backup user registered.