Facebook Cracks Down on Bowhunting Ads. Here’s What You Can Do.

Promoted posts target specific audiences and help advertisers increase their reach on social media platforms like Facebook.
Photo Credit: Heather Koehl

Author: Teresa Johnson

Facebook has been suppressing ads that promote certain aspects of archery and bowhunting. That’s unfair, in our opinion, but what can advertisers do about Facebook targeting their promoted posts?

We don’t have hard data to share, because Facebook is secretive about everything from its news-feed algorithm to how it enforces its advertising guidelines. However, we have some tips that might help get your promoted posts past Facebook’s “censors.”

First, a promoted post is paid advertising that targets a specific audience. For example, you might have written a how-to article about field dressing deer. You want to promote that article to a larger Facebook audience to ensure more people see it, so you chose the “Boost Post” option.

You then chose your audience, say people ages 18 to 65 who like hunting, bowhunting and fishing. Next, you chose a budget and a time period for the promotion. You submitted your request and then, WHAM. A Facebook message says your ad was rejected because it doesn’t meet Facebook’s advertising guidelines.

What the heck?!

By checking with several ATA members and spending lots of time promoting posts for the ATA Trade Show, Bowhunting 360 and Archery 360, we learned some specific images or phrases seem to trigger Facebook rejections. We also learned that Facebook isn’t 100 percent consistent in enforcing its guidelines, probably because staff members interpret Facebook’s rules differently. Still, we think these tips are worth sharing:

1. Avoid images that show a bow aimed at an animal.

Images that show a bow aimed at an animal are often rejected as promoted ads on Facebook.

We’ve tried promoting such posts and were stopped every time. However, images that show the animal itself, or a bowhunter with gear but with no deer in range seem to be OK.

2. The caption’s wording is important.

For example, we tried to promote a post about marketing bowhunting equipment at the ATA Trade Show. We used an image from the Show floor and this phrase in a caption: “The world’s largest archery and bowhunting trade show.” Facebook rejected it. We tweaked the wording to focus on events at the Trade Show, but with similar Show images, and Facebook accepted the posts for promotion. Facebook seems to prohibit language that promotes sales of what it considers a “weapon.” However, more specific language doesn’t seem to trigger rejection. Describing what the gear does and how it works, and listing its advantages or its aesthetics will more likely get past “security.” So tweak your wording to learn what works. If your ad is still unfairly rejected, you can file an appeal.

3. Content that focuses on the “how” and “why” of archery and bowhunting seems more successful.

For example, look at our Archery 360 Facebook feed, and our Bowhunting 360 Facebook page. Both accounts focus on how-to, fandom, and more specific details of archery and bowhunting. They aren’t a general call-to-action to go hunting. Action-oriented posts such as “How to choose your gear” and “How to prepare venison” also fared well. Also (sneaky!) use emojis to communicate. For example, we’ve used captions that encourage people to bowhunt, but instead of saying “shoot a deer,” we’ve used the bow emoji with success.

4. All content should give your audience value, and you can promote posts that way by leveraging content that entertains and raises awareness about archery and bowhunting.


Archery memes entertain and raise awareness about archery and bowhunting. Make sure the meme meets Facebook’s design standards; the text should cover less than 20 percent of your image.

For example, memes with text covering less than 20 percent of the image can make your audience laugh AND get shared. That opens their potential to go viral. So, even if Facebook rejects your boost, your content is more likely to be shared virally.

5. Finally, consider archery or bowhunting-related posts that elicit reactions on Facebook.

Posts that elicit reactions rank your content higher in Facebook’s news feed and increase your reach.

Reactions – laugh, love, sad or wow – are Facebook’s latest alternatives to “likes,” which rank your content higher in News Feed. The more reactions a post gets compared to likes, the more often it gets shown to people who like your page. Check out this example from World Archery.

Have you experienced similar issues with Facebook? We’d love to hear about them. Reach out to Teresa Johnson, ATA’s senior director of communications, to share your experiences.

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