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By Dagmawi Demek

As digital marketing grows increasingly competitive, businesses seek innovative methods to connect with their target audience. In Ethiopia, Facebook Ads has been the leading digital advertising platform for some time.

However, for the past three months, certain social media platforms, such as Facebook, TikTok, and Telegram, have experienced partial blockades in the country. Despite this, users have managed to access these platforms through Virtual Private Networks (VPNs).

Nevertheless, the extensive use of VPNs in Ethiopia has complicated the process of running ads on these platforms.

The VPN Dilemma in Facebook Ads

When setting up Facebook ads, it is essential to consider the location settings to ensure that the targeted audience is reached. Unfortunately, the use of VPNs often misrepresents the user’s location, making it difficult to target the intended demographic. For instance, if you want to target users in Addis Ababa but the VPN makes it appear that they reside in another city, your targeted ad may not connect with the intended audience.

Furthermore, logging into Facebook through a VPN can trigger the platform’s security measures, leading to account restriction or suspension. The Facebook algorithm is designed to identify and flag uncommon login attempts or sudden location shifts. In the event that Facebook detects VPN usage, it may trigger the platform’s security protocols, resulting in account restriction or ad disapproval.

Therefore, digital marketing managers are challenged to find new ways to overcome these VPN-related challenges and adapt their strategies according to the current landscape of online advertising.

The TikTok VPN Policy: To Use or Not to Use?

TikTok is another popular marketing channel that relies on location-based algorithms to display content to users. When a video is initially displayed, it is shown to users in the creator’s region first. This is logical, as people are more likely to watch videos from creators in their own country due to language and culture.

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However, some marketers use VPNs to change their location to a more active region to boost their TikTok views. This may seem like a clever tactic, but it can actually limit the reach of your content. TikTok has a strict no-VPN policy and may even shadow-ban your account, which can harm your views permanently. This is because the platform believes in its geographic algorithm and is accountable to advertisers who spend money based on real geographic data. If users can easily manipulate their locations, advertisers are less likely to invest in the platform. Additionally, using a VPN can attract bots and spammers who target TikTok users in specific regions or artificially inflate spam content.

Therefore, it is crucial to weigh the potential risks and consequences before using a VPN to boost your views. Instead, focus on creating high-quality content and adhering to TikTok’s guidelines, as this is the most effective way to build a loyal following and increase your views over time.

The Future of VPNs in Online Advertising

As long as the use of VPNs continues to grow in Ethiopia and other countries, digital marketers will need to find new ways to overcome the challenges posed by VPN usage. It is essential to understand the risks and consequences associated with VPNs and adapt strategies accordingly. Instead of relying on VPNs to manipulate location settings, businesses should focus on creating high-quality content and targeting the right audience through other means, such as interest-based targeting and demographic targeting.


Dagmawi Demeke is a digital marketing manager, SEO strategist, and freelance writer serving both local and international businesses in various sectors. Dagmawi can be reached at [email protected].

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