Facebook Has a Marketing Problem, and It’s Spelled S-E-X

They infuriate businesses owners like me by courting our ad dollars when they have no intention of accepting them

Read almost any book or article geared toward authors and marketing, especially self-published authors, and you’ll find one major recommendation: advertise on Facebook. Because the social media platform allows authors to target users based on their interests, it makes sense that if a reader likes a book like Gone Girl, they’ll enjoy other suspenseful thrillers, for instance.

That’s wonderful…for everyone except those like me who write erotica or other sexually explicit material. Facebook’s guidelines for Adult Products or Services state, “Ads must not promote the sale or use of adult products or services, except for ads for family planning and contraception.”

Fair enough. They are a private company and can choose to accept or decline advertising dollars as they see fit. While this is personally frustrating to me as an erotica anthology editor whose business revolves around selling books, I can accept that this is their policy. As a social networking tool that I access for free, I don’t expect them to cater to my particular business needs.

Facebook keeps asking for my money, then immediately rejects it

However, why I believe they have a marketing problem is that on my professional Facebook page, in my email inbox, and via my business account on the Facebook-owned app Instagram, I’m constantly bombarded with requests to boost posts for money.

This appeared at the top of my Facebook page this morning

These will say things like “This post is performing better than 70% of your posts. Boost it to reach…”

Why serve this up if they won’t let me boost the post?

Yet when I click through on Facebook’s enticing offer, I’m immediately met with a warning that my ad “may not be approved” because (wait for it) my ad “can’t promote sexual or adult products or services.” Which I already knew.

So which is it, Facebook? Do you want my business’s money or not? By essentially spamming me with requests to boost my posts, you’re holding out the promise that my business can access your unique services, only to snatch that hope away, in the process wasting my time, which as well all know, “is money.”

If Facebook categorically won’t approve ads promoting sexual or adult products, including the entire erotica genre, then they should figure out a way to filter out those posts and pages from their marketing onslaught. Otherwise, they make a mockery of their own advertising ecosystem as they taunt people like me with the lure of goals like “engage and chat with potential customers,” when they have absolutely no intention of approving my ads.

Facebook’s marketing toward adult product creators is hypocritical

Indeed, I paused writing this essay to see if I could boost a recent post advertising my new self-published anthology Candy Lovers: Sugar Erotica, the precise one Facebook had suggested I boost in two places on my page (see screenshots above). I was told within five minutes that my ad was rejected.

My $20 was rejected by Facebook in under five minutes

Here’s their reasoning: “Your ad wasn’t approved because it doesn’t follow our Advertising Policies. We don’t allow ads that promote the sale of adult products such as sex toys. Ads like these are sensitive in nature and typically evoke a negative reaction from viewers.”

If my post doesn’t follow Facebook’s advertising policies, why did they ask me to boost it?

I’m certainly not the first adult product creator to write about their issues with Facebook’s highly selective ad approval process. But I believe we need to separate Facebook’s right, as a private company, to refuse all adult ads, with their internal marketing to business owners who might want to place such ads or promote posts featuring adult items.

Yes, there are workarounds; I’m likely going to hire a consultant who, for a hefty fee, will help me figure out how to launch ads via a third party so I can promote my books. It’s a cumbersome process, but I’m willing to do it, because I still think the payoff will be worthwhile. That’s how much I believe in the power of Facebook to help me reach new customers. I don’t even resent that cost, because it’s a legitimate business expense.

But Facebook and Instagram would behoove themselves to stop sending businesses like mine offers that by definition they refuse to process. Yes, I understand they aren’t personally courting me, but promoting via algorithm. Yet surely they have the technological prowess to filter out businesses whose adds they plan to reject due to adult content from such marketing gimmicks. Continuing to blare those gimmicks across our pages and in our inboxes is insulting, inefficient, and just plain bad business.

If you liked this essay, you might also like my post about grappling with my feelings about Twitter refusing to verify me:


Rachel Kramer Bussel (rachelkramerbussel.com) has edited over 60 anthologies, including Best Women’s Erotica of the Year, Volume 1, 2 and 3, Come Again: Sex Toy Erotica, Begging for It, Fast Girls, The Big Book of Orgasms and more. She writes widely about sex, dating, books and pop culture and teaches erotica writing classes around the country and online. Follow her Twitter account @raquelita and find out more about her classes and consulting at eroticawriting101.com. You can also follow Rachel on BookBub to get notified about new releases and ebook sales.

Rachel Kramer Bussel

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writer covering sex, books, and culture. editor of 60+ anthologies, erotica writing instructor. see rachelkramerbussel.com for newsletter, events & clips.

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