Facebook’s ban hammer is blunt and ugly, but marketers can’t turn their back 

Sabri Suby, founder and head of growth at King Kong, faces off against the other gorilla in the room: Facebook.

The whistleblower behind Facebook’s biggest ever document leak has been named. Before leaving her role in May, Frances Haugen, a product manager on the company’s ‘civic integrity team’, copied tens of thousands of internal documents and shared them with the US Securities and Exchange Commission, members of Congress and the Wall Street Journal. 

She told the media that her civic integrity unit was critically under-resourced with just 200 people, and was eventually dissolved by Facebook management. Her expert recommendation is that Facebook needs to hire far more people to audit and guide the content that the company shows to its users. 

For a huge number of reasons, some of them related to COVID-19, Facebook’s auditing team has been consistently downsized over the past couple of years. For those of us outside of the US, the problem is even worse, with just 13% of all total human hours spent on labelling and taking down content being spent on content outside the US in 2020.  

Facebook is now leaning on AI way more than human beings to approve all of the content that’s getting posted. Facebook is relying on a hypersensitive and blunt tool – and it’s picking up on a lot of different things it shouldn’t.  

Businesses are getting caught in the crossfire of Facebook CEO’s Mark Zuckerberg’s ‘ban hammer’, where accounts are getting pulled left, right, and centre. My own digital marketing business has been deemed a multi-level marketing company. I have an artist colleague whose account has been shut down for supposedly being pornography. He paints lions. 

Zuckerberg getting dragged out in front of Congress and being grilled about the Cambridge Analytica scandal was just the start of the onslaught of negative press surrounding Facebook. Things got nasty for Zuckerberg, and as a result, he’s setting his snipers on anything faintly political. Regardless of what it is, you’re not allowed to run it. But this hardline approach, coupled with a lack of human auditors, mean that some very bizarre decisions are being made.  

I was recently faced with an ad that was being constantly rejected by Facebook for ‘political content’, even though the ad had nothing to do with politics. Eventually, we realised there was a clip of Joe Biden on the television in the background for 1/10th of a second. Facebook’s AI saw Joe Biden’s face and banned the ad.  

Clearly, Facebook has many, many warts and blemishes as a marketing channel – yet it continues to grow in popularity with 2.8 billion active users. Sure, TikTok just hit a billion, but Facebook is still the huge 800 pound gorilla in the space. 

Statistic: Number of monthly active Facebook users worldwide as of 2nd quarter 2021 (in millions) | Statista
Source: Statista

Whether you like it or not, Facebook knows that marketers are going to put up with their policies, their hypersensitive algorithms, ad accounts going down, and business manager accounts being banned. We will continue to wade through these treacherous waters, and cross that live minefield, because the reward on the other side is too big to turn down. 

What are our alternatives? Search marketing only represents a very small percentage of the overall marketing pie, because there are only so many searches per month for what it is that you’re selling. If you’re lucky, you’ll get around 4% of overall search traffic coming through to your website and your landing pages. In reality, it’s quite limited.  

Facebook, on the other hand, is intent-based marketing and there is really no limit to the people you can push your message to. The number of eyeballs you’re willing to pay for is the only limit of how hard you can push out your marketing message.  

So for marketers who continue to have their ads pulled, what’s the solution? The main strategy is to be persistent regardless of what Facebook tells you the outcome is. If you keep hounding them – especially if you’re 100% sure that your ad is clean – you will typically get a more favorable outcome.  

And as always, push traffic to your owned assets. Facebook is never going to touch your email marketing lists, your text messaging lists, or your website. Whatever marketing strategy you use on Facebook, always push your audience to the assets that you own, every time.  

Sabri Suby is the founder and head of growth at King Kong.


Get the latest media and marketing industry news (and views) direct to your inbox.

Sign up to the free Mumbrella newsletter now.



Sign up to our free daily update to get the latest in media and marketing.