Twitter’s Rule Changes


Twitter’s formal announcement of the rule changes regarding political ads today is the latest move in the shifting digital landscape. These changes are designed to add transparency and guardrails to a  social media platform that has become an unregulated tool for informing, and sadly misinforming, targeted audiences.

The announcement today formalizes that Twitter will prohibit political and issue advertising on the platform, with some exceptions. For those wondering what this means, and more importantly, what to do about it, we wanted to share our thoughts.

With the announced Twitter policy, political ads, candidate ads, legislative ads and issue ads will largely be prohibited, but ads that “spread awareness about issues of national significance would still be allowed.”

Twitter defines issue ads as those that refer to elections or candidates, or that advocate for or against legislative issues of national importance such as climate change, health care, immigration, etc.

This rule change may seem like a restriction, but actually allows for a continued broad conversation on critical issues. The upside of this approach is that it allows organizations to continue to create or grow brand awareness, boost reputations and generate opportunities for further engagement, such as clicks to landing pages or action centers. Twitter has also dropped hints that activists, advocates, nonprofits and labor groups won’t be unfairly limited despite potential disadvantages against well-funded opposition.

Here are some of the questions we’re hearing and how we’re answering them:

Our strategy was centered on Twitter. What do we do? We’ve always taken the approach that organizations spending on advertising need to be focused on people over platforms. When we build audiences, we create a target list of those we think we can and should persuade to change their views, raise awareness or take action at a critical moment. That’s why we’ve developed a proprietary tool that reaches our audiences wherever they go online. We never want to reach someone in just one place. Consumer products sell on Facebook and in your email, on your mobile device and your laptop, in a banner ad and on streaming services. Issue advertising should have the same mindset. Our goal is to identify, build and capture our audience in as many places as we can. To that end, we’ve built a program that diversifies ad platforms, but allows for the same strategic targeting and message flexibility that Twitter is eliminating. 

Does this mean that we should stop advertising on Twitter? No, not necessarily. We think that we can and should use Twitter to make a broader argument and participate in the public discussion that takes place on the platform. We are advising our clients to use Twitter to persuade people that their argument is right, that their approach is the best and/or their voice is one that audiences need to hear, even if we may now be limited in how we use Twitter ads to discuss a specific issue or piece of legislation.

Twitter ads were great because they allowed for relatively low-cost ways to join a larger conversation. Where do we go for that, now? We would be willing to wager that no one unlocks their phone to use Twitter and then uses no other apps. Or that people use Twitter, but not also the web or email. Our approach, simplified, is to find the people we would have targeted on Twitter and reach them where they get their email, where they get their news and when they’re in a specific physical location, among other things. We also use other platforms, including but not limited to Facebook, to reach the same people. This targeting can be done in a very affordable way. But we start every campaign with the goal, desired outcomes and people in mind – and go from there.

As we wrote when we launched Seven Letter Labs: What happens to digital strategy when a major advertising platform like Twitter decides to change its rules overnight? Organizations and communicators need – as the saying goes – a plan for that. Well, we’ve got one.

Please don’t hesitate to reach out to us if you have additional questions or want more information about the approaches we recommend, advocacy tools we’re building or ways to reach the people that matter to you and your company/organization.