Was it really only eight years ago that a young senator from the state of Illinois made headlines for embracing nascent social media technologies in his campaign for President? Since then, social media has become a necessary part of political campaigns, whether you’re Barack Obama, Marty Walsh, or running for Mayor of Dorchester. With the third presidential campaign cycle in the social media world heating up, the networks used by candidates are expanding their offerings to profit on the quadrennial race for the White House.
The New York Times reports that Facebook is creating infrastructure and ad targeting options on its site that are pretty impressive, including the platform’s expanded video offerings and the ability for campaigns to upload their voter lists directly to the network to track supporters and to tap them for donations.
“Facebook is going to be the advertising monster of 2016,” said Zac Moffatt, a co-founder of Targeted Victory, a Republican technology firm that ran Mitt Romney’s 2012 digital effort. “They have the largest audience, a dominant set of tools for advertising, and the most aggressive approach to allowing campaigns to leverage their data to maximize efficiency and minimize waste.”
This has been our experience with social media advertising as well. Obviously, Facebook isn’t ideal for every social campaign, but if success relies on tapping a large audience and having lots of actionable data, the world’s largest social media network is what we often recommend to clients.
Our friends at Twitter are likely not pleased with this Times article from a public relations perspective—its social ad capabilities are buried several paragraphs into the story. It will be interesting to see if Twitter rolls out any new ad capabilities during the campaign—or if it will just drive up the price of advertising on a certain hashtag when the debate season heats up. (We can’t even image the CPC for popular keywords and hashtags during a GOP debate in which Donald Trump participates.) We’ll also be excited to see how campaigns use Snapchat to reach young voters in 2016.
Another tool we value, both for campaigns and in a crisis, is NUVI, which helps track online conversation—and the sentiment of that conversation—in real time. During the 2012 campaign, CNN and Facebook teamed up to harvest data about how often and where Facebook users were talking about the candidates. Will this tool return, perhaps with more features?
And, of course, we’ll be waiting to try these new features for our clients—whether they’re running a political campaign or working to meet their business goals.