Should policy organisations do paid social?
Photo by Linus Sandvide on Unsplash

We often get asked whether policy organisations should do paid advertising on social media.

Some say “advertising” is a dirty word, especially for cause-based organisations – should we be supporting it? Is it an appropriate way for nonprofits to spend funding? Social media platforms are getting into all sorts of trouble over political content – should we really be getting involved? And for university institutes and think tanks, is social media a respected enough platform on which to disseminate our research?

Our answer to all these questions is a wholehearted YES. 

If you’re unsure about advertising on social media, or you’re looking for an argument to persuade colleagues to get behind paid, keep reading. 

Reach your audience

What is already a very noisy space has in recent years become a melee as social media platforms have altered their algorithms to boost engagement and incentivise ad spend.

Why spend all your time and assets creating great content when no one gets to see it?

We regularly see this with high-production videos getting barely 100 views on YouTube, or good Twitter threads getting only a dozen likes. Why spend all your time and assets creating great content when no one gets to see it?

Paid advertising is actually just good comms, making use of the existing features of your channels to make sure your message reaches your audience. And yes, policy organisations should be tapping into advertising’s cultural power. 

Stake your claim

Advertising isn’t inherently negative. It’s how it is used. And in a world of disinformation, policy experts have a duty to make sure good information is available as widely as possible using all available tools. 

Instead of sitting back and watching the status quo play out, why not claim territory for your research or cause?

By diversifying content on social media, you are helping to create more of a landscape of good information, rather than leaving it up to troll farms. 

Big consumer brands advertise, but policy organisations generally don’t. And if they do, they often don’t do it very well. 

If you’re looking for guidance on using paid, read our Beginner’s guide to paid social media advertising for policy organisations.

Benefit from good value for money 

A recent study by Asset Digital showed the comparative cost to reach an audience of

2,000 people in the US. Traditional advertising came in at broadcast (US$150), newspapers (US$250), magazines (US$500), and direct mail (US$900), compared to digital advertising: search (US$50) and social networks (US$75).

Social ads are clearly cost-effective compared to traditional forms of advertising. Not only that – for multi-market campaigns, rather than having to engage multiple providers across a number of countries, the social media platform can act as a one-stop shop.

Think tanks create a tremendous volume of high-value content. But are you using it to maximise your impact and, ultimately, support the public good? 

Advertising shouldn’t only be considered a commercial tool for positive return on ad spend (ROAS); it can also be an important part of the process of instigating social change. 



Online platforms offer support to cause-based organisations in varying degrees. In Twitter, for example, you can apply for a certification to allow cause-based advertising, while Meta (previously Facebook) has a hub for social impact that includes resources for learning and support. Google (even if a search engine rather than social media platform) supports nonprofits via their Google Ad Grants programme, giving qualifying nonprofits access to up to US$10,000 per month in search ads on