Inconsistent Enforcement, Inability To Avoid News Feed Plague Facebook’s 20 Percent Text Rule

By David Cohen 

Facebook marketing expert Jon Loomer is 100 percent annoyed with Facebook’s 20 percent rule, as in, from Section III.D of the social network’s advertising guidelines: “Ads and sponsored stories for news feed that originate from pages may not include images with more than 20 percent text.”

Loomer wrote that his issues are more with the enforcement of the rule than the spirit of the rule, pointing out that there is no official guide or tool to help page administrators determine if their ads comply with the guidelines, and that page admins are not given the option of excluding their ads from the news feed.

Facebook page builder ShortStack created a visual guide to the 20 percent rule, but Loomer was correct in pointing out that there is no official version of this type of tool.

Loomer wrote about specific examples:

Some ads get through that shouldn’t get through. Some ads get rejected that shouldn’t be rejected. And there is no consistency to the process.

An example is a promoted post that I ran for a client. That post was a link share that drove users to a Facebook tab. The link preview had more than 20 percent text in it.

After getting rejected, I decided to run it as a page post ad that would run only in the sidebar (we’ll get to this problem later). Rejected again.

A freaking link share. So you’re telling me that advertisers have to control how much text is in the thumbnail image? That’s absolutely ludicrous since it won’t always be controlled — and the image is rarely created with Facebook in mind.

And that’s only part of why this rejection was ridiculous. This particular page post ad was targeted at a custom audience of people who aren’t already connected to the page. I created this ad with the full intention of it never appearing in news feeds. But because — I assume — it could appear in news feeds as a suggested post due to a minuscule number of friends of fans, the link share thumbnail image gets the ad rejected.

I promoted a similar post that this time included a shared image. That image was a screen grab of a book gallery that was featured within a Facebook tab. Once again, that image did indeed have more than 20 percent text.

But that promoted post made it through. It was insanely effective. It was so effective that I extended the daily budget and expiration date to go through the end of February.

Of course, I got greedy and decided to create a page post ad out of that same post that would — hopefully — go into the sidebar. Facebook rejected that one, and seemed to pick up on the other ad that had been going on for three weeks. It then killed that one, too.

Some of the most effective ads are page post ads and sponsored stories that promote the engagement of page content. Sometimes, those posts include images that have more than 20 percent text in them.

Sure, I get it. I can’t promote that post in the news feed. So I guess I’ll just promote it in the sidebar.

But here’s the deal: You can’t.

Even when you use power editor, you can’t create a page post ad or sponsored story that only shows up in the sidebar. This wasn’t clear to me until Facebook recently added some copy explaining the various placements in power editor.

Do you see the problem here, folks? Previously, the second option was only “desktop.” My assumption was that this was simply all sidebar ads on desktop placements, since the final option was “news feed only.”

But “desktop” includes the sidebar and news feed. In other words, if you want to target fans or friends of fans with a page post ad or sponsored story, it’s impossible to hit them only on the sidebar.

Since you can’t avoid the news feed, you can’t create ads that contain more than 20 percent text in them — even if your intention is to reach only the sidebar.

The result: I’m getting rejected over and over and over again. Link shares and ads that I never wanted to show up in the news feed to begin with.

Readers: Have any of you encountered similar difficulties in trying to place ads on Facebook?

Screen grabs courtesy of Jon Loomer. 20 percent image courtesy of Shutterstock.