It’s really annoying when you go to run some Facebook ads and you find that, for whatever reason, they just aren’t running. There are so many reasons they might not be running that it’s difficult to troubleshoot. Sometimes you spend more time trying to talk with Facebook support and scouring your ad manager than you did making the ad in the first place.
That’s why I wrote this checklist. These are most of the most common reasons your ads might not be working. Check them first, then you can determine if it’s a glitch worthy of calling Facebook support over.
1. It’s Pending Approval
This is perhaps the most common ads-related question ever asked on Facebook’s support forums. Facebook has to approve every ad that goes through their system, making sure it adheres to all of their guidelines and is fit for consumption. They don’t care if it’s targeted well or well written, of course; they just care that it doesn’t violate image, copy or targeting rules.
The ad approval process typically takes anywhere from 2 to 72 hours. The normal turnaround is between 12 and 24 hours, but when a holiday is involved, it can take 2-3 days instead. If you just created or changed an ad, it has to go through approval, so give it some time before it can run.
2. The Ad is Set Inactive
If your ad has been approved but it’s not running, you should navigate to it in your ads manager. There’s usually a little button alongside the ad that indicates whether or not the ad itself is active. If the ad is active, it should be running, though other issues can get in the way. If it’s inactive, it’s not running, not spending your budget, and not reaching your audience. Make sure your ad is turned on if you want it to run.
3. The Ad Set is Inactive
If you think this is the same as the previous step, read them again. Facebook ads are grouped into ad sets. Each ad set can have a number of ads, typically ads with similar goals. Often, businesses use ad sets to group the ads they’re split testing.
The thing people might not realize with ad sets is that the entire set can be switched on or off. If the ad set is turned off, all of the ads within will be inactive, even if they’re labeled active. This allows you to turn groups of ads on and off with a single button, rather than having to manually turn each on or off as the situation calls. This might not seem like much, but when you’re running dozens of ads at a time, being able to swap sets around at will is dramatically convenient.
4. The Campaign is Inactive
One step up from the ad set is the ad campaign, and guess what? These can be enabled or disabled the same way ad sets can be toggled. It has the same effect as well; a disabled campaign can have an enabled ad set with enabled ads and those ads still won’t run. Check to make sure your campaign, ad set, and ad itself is enabled in each location to make sure the ad runs.
5. Your Budget is Too Small
People very often proclaim how effective Facebook ads can be with a miniscule budget, typically citing “$1 per day” as a reasonable low figure. It’s easy to get this wrong, however, and put in too small a budget to reach any of your users with any sort of success.
Conversely, it’s possible when you have an ad that’s not running that you just blew through what little budget you set. If your audience is sufficiently wide, you might not even get any noticeable value from those ads. With poor targeting, you’ll end up spending all your budget on ads that get you nothing. The two main scenarios I can think of are having too low a budget for a website conversions metric, and using the website views metric with poor targeting so all the views come from people who don’t care.
6. Your Targeting is Too Narrow
Facebook has had bad experiences in the past with narrow targeting. They eventually increased the minimum limit for an audience, to avoid things like this happening. While that post was a harmless prank, it could easily be used maliciously. They don’t want to have that happen.
It’s possible that you got overzealous in adding targeting factors and made your audience too narrow. If your audience is extremely narrow, it’s possible that those people just aren’t browsing, or aren’t seeing your ads, for one reason or another.
7. You’re Violating an Ad Policy
Facebook has fairly strict policies for ads, and they’re surprisingly easy to violate. There are a bunch of image types you can’t use, including trying to use overt sex appeal to sell, or using anything that looks violent. These are some of the biggest roadblocks for advertisers. It’s possible that your ad was rejected and you haven’t yet addressed the problem.
8. Your Ad Was Rejected
This is more or less the same as the previous step, only it’s a little harsher. Violating policies is one thing, but if you’re too far out of line, it’s possible that your entire ad will be rejected and there’s nothing you can do. This can also happen if your website is flagged as something Facebook doesn’t want to advertise. Any ad you try to use to link to that site won’t work.
9. You’ve Capped Your Budget
I mentioned something about this earlier, but it’s worth noting that if you’ve reached your budget cap, your ads will still look like they’re running, when they actually can’t. All they need is for the daily/weekly/monthly cap to refresh and they can run some more, but once they reach that cap they won’t run. You need to either increase your budget or wait for that refresh.
10. Your Ad Is Running After All
Finally, sometimes it looks like your ad isn’t running when it’s actually running just fine. Facebook’s Insights are on a bit of a delay, so you won’t see real time results. Check back a day later and see if they’re reporting activity.