You may have heard that Facebook stopped allowing ads to target groups based on religious interests.
In practical terms, Catholic apostolates could previously tell Facebook to show their ads to anyone who liked topics such as Our Lady, the Rosary, the Divine Liturgy, and the Pope.
Now, it’s not allowed to set your Facebook ads to be shown ads to people based on their religious interests.
Is Facebook censoring Catholics?
What does this mean for your apostolate?
I outline what has changed, how to use Facebook still, or if you should abandon the platform.
Here is what you should know regarding Facebook’s changes to Catholic interests:
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Greetings, my fellow Catholics! Today, we are going to be talking about some of the very significant changes that Facebook, or Meta, has done with regard to anything on its platform related to religious associations, religious affiliations, and religious interests.
Stick with me. This is going to be a very interesting topic with regards to Facebook and our Catholic faith.
Hi, my name is Brice Sokolowski, the founder of CatholicFundraiser.net, the website completely dedicated to helping Catholics just like you with your fundraising. Whether you’re starting out or you’re well on your way with a campaign and you’re just looking for a few fresh ideas, you are in the right spot, especially for today’s topic on Facebook and our Catholic faith.
Now, before we dive in, I want to make sure that you’ve downloaded my absolutely free guide, The 10 Commandments to Catholic Fundraising. This is a compilation of 10 lessons and actions that I have found to be very important, and very foundational to fundraising in the Catholic context and helping you align your faith, your mission, and (obviously) your fundraising endeavors.
Let’s start with looking at Facebook advertising. This is a key topic. Now, you might have never done Facebook advertising, you may have briefly considered it, or you might actually be utilizing this avenue of promotion. Because, as problematic as Facebook can sometimes appear to be, Catholics are still using it. So it’s a moot point. We might complain all we want about Facebook/Meta but the reality is, millions upon millions of Catholics are still using this social platform to engage and post with one another.
With that said, Facebook/Meta advertising has changed some of its rules. On the user side, you can still Like the subjects important to you. You can still Like the Catholic Church, Jesus, Our Lady, Pope Francis (and Pope Benedict XVI), etc. To my understanding, expressing what you Like is still in existence. I haven’t seen any changes there.
However, there has been a change in how advertisers can target Facebook users based on their religious affiliation, interests, connections, etc. If you’ve never done any Facebook advertising, here’s roughly how it works:
Say you have an advertisement, and you want certain people to see it. You might have had an ad about, let’s say, Pope Francis and you want to show this ad about Pope Francis to people who like Pope Francis, or have done things for or related to Pope Francis. In the past, we could do that. However, today, we can no longer target our market as advertisers. There is no longer an option to choose that allows us to show our ad specifically to people who like Pope Francis. That no longer exists and that really is point number one, to show you that about, on the advertising side, anything religious (and that’s not – to the best of my knowledge – specific only to Catholics/Christians). It’s any type of faith-based interest group. That kind of targeted advertising is completely gone.
So on to my next point. Is this change a bad thing?y I personally don’t think it’s such a bad thing because, from a user’s perspective, let’s accept the fact that the majority of people who use Facebook use it for personal interest. They are not advertisers, so nothing has really changed. For them, it’s not that bad, really. People can still Like what they want. (Now, I’m reading from my notes here, which are going to be included in the link below. So if you want to go back and review what we’re talking about now, you can go to my website.) People can still Like their religious interests. It doesn’t change how you, the everyday Catholic, use Facebook. It’s only the advertisers that are going to be affected, so if you are an advertiser, you may have a reason to complain. It is going to become more difficult, even for fundraisers like me, to target other Catholics but I don’t know if it’s going to be all that much more difficult.
Of course, there are alternatives, and that’s my third point. Looking again to point number two, is this change a bad thing, and I’m still going to say no, not necessarily. Sure, it was great when it existed. But it’s not there anymore. Just as Google doesn’t do religious affiliation or interests (and hasn’t for at least as long as I’ve been using the platform). That was never an option and I don’t think it has been on other social media platforms either. The fact that Facebook did have it for a while was great. But now, you will have to look for a different solution. Now, you can create what’s called a ‘look-alike,’ where you give Facebook a small sample Let’s say 1000 people) and create an audience that looks like this audience, and this audience that you give them could be your website traffic, and you can say, look, these are the people following or visiting my website, find more people like them. That’s one resourceful work-around that is still available to you.
The second option is through Facebook engagement. So you’re on their social media platform and you just tell Facebook hey, here are all the people associated with my organization on Facebook, so please find/search other people similar to them. And Facebook will then say, sure, we can do that! So that’s almost like an Interest Group within itself, because you’re saying find other people similar to these people connected with me. You can do that.
A third way is to actually upload a list of Contacts and tell Facebook to find people similar to these people. When when you do that with Facebook (and I’m not going to get too deep into the granular details) but when you upload your Contacts list, Facebook doesn’t store that information.
In a nutshell, my understanding of Facebook and the way they do it is, that they don’t necessarily keep that list. They just take that list and they try to find the profiles associated with that list and then, they get rid of your list of contacts. Essentially saying okay, here’s a baseline of profiles so let’s find who they’re associated with and try to find similarities. I don’t want to get into too much detail. I’ve had extensive conversations with people about this. So to present it in a short amount of time is challenging. The bottom line is, that Facebook has changed things in regards to advertising by religious groups, including Catholics. And it’s somewhat unfortunate because it’s been a great way to find and connect with other Catholics (and possible donors). But you can still do things in a certain way. You can still find Catholics. And that’s the crux of this whole discussion. Things have changed. Is that good or bad? I don’t think it’s that bad. You just have to pivot a little. The great thing to remember is, that there are going to be a lot of people who aren’t going to be pivoting. And that, my friend, means more space for you and those who do pivot correctly! There is going to be less competition for you to show your advertisement to people.
Overall, I think change is a good thing. You just have to be ready, willing, and able to pivot. Keep advertising on Facebook if that’s what you have found to be effective in finding other Catholics to let them know about your apostolate. This topic turned out much longer than I expected so I hope that this was helpful! Please, reach out to me if you have any questions, God bless, speak to you soon.
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