The 2012 campaign has been called the Facebook election and the Twitter election on more than one occasion. Social media is being heralded as a way to spread your message through earned (read: unpaid) media. But is that the end of the story? Social advertising allows politicians to target ads and get their message in front of the right voters. While building followers organically is important, and engaging with them actively is key, targeted advertising is immensely powerful. How can your campaign take advantage?
Targeting on Facebook
Facebook’s self-serve ad platform allows advertisers to hone in on people by a variety of factors including age, interest, and region. It’s easy to narrow down your audience to those who may be more receptive to your messaging. The profiles are kept anonymous, that is to say you will not be able to see any the names of the people you reach, or any of their private or protected information. You will simply be able to see the approximate number of users you are reaching. Facebook recommends targeting groups of new less than a few thousand users, which may require you to broaden targeting criteria.
Facebook allows advertisers to target by interest, reaching people based on the interests they have included on their profiles. You could target people who say they are interested in politics, for example, if you’re looking for advocates. You can also target by political identification (people who identify themselves as Republican, Democrat, liberal or conservative), or by religion.
You can target by other demographic information like age, gender, marital status or people who have children. Education targeting allows you to target people who have a certain level of education, and it also allows you to target graduates or students at particular colleges. You can even target people who have graduated from a specific school in a specific year.
For most campaigns, regional targeting is likely to be a popular option. Within the U.S., Facebook allows targeting by the state, city and even by zip code. Even more recently, Facebook has added an ethnic targeting option, although targeting Hispanic Facebook users is currently the only available option.
The best way to take advantage of Facebook’s targeting capabilities is to segment your audience into different groups and serve tailored ads to each group. For example, married men in Texas who identify as Christian and have children could receive a different message than single, college-educated women in California.
Rick Perry’s now defunct primary campaign effectively used Facebook targeting to reach the right audiences. The Perry campaign targeted Christian Iowans prior to the Iowa caucuses, and served them ads focused on his faith. In South Carolina, the campaign targeted students at Baptist college Furman University.
Twitter’s advertising is relatively new territory for all brands, and only recently has been serving politicians.
Unlike Facebook, demographic targeting options are limited, but you can target ads based on search behavior, region or device. Twitter offers three forms of advertising: promoted tweets, promoted accounts, and promoted hashtags. You can pay to have specific tweets to appear either within Twitter users’ feeds or to in search results for the keywords you choose, even if those users don’t follow you on Twitter. Selecting to have your promoted tweet appear within search results is probably a safer bet, as people are more likely to find your tweet relevant. Promoting your account means that your Twitter account will be a follower suggestion for users Twitter thinks may be interested in following you, and users who search for the keywords you’ve selected. You can also promote a hashtag to start a conversation about something of your choosing. However, there is no targeting here and you should use at your own risk as it is the most likely to backfire.
Twitter also allows regional targeting. You can serve promoted tweets to users in specific countries, and within the U.S., to users in specific metro-area, though they do not offer targeting quite so granular as Facebook’s zip code targeting. Recently, Twitter announced they would also be serving ads on mobile, and they also let advertisers target by device. You can serve ads specifically to desktops or laptops, to mobile devices, and you can even target by mobile device, serving ads only to Android or iOS devices.
While you don’t have Facebook’s rich demographic targeting, you do have behavioral targeting which is often more powerful. Users who have searched for something within Twitter are actively looking for information, which means if your promoted tweet is relevant to that user they may be more likely to engage. Twitter users tend to be more politically active, and the medium appears to be more receptive to political discourse than Facebook is.
According to Peter Greenberger, head of Twitter’s political sales team, promoted political tweets have been significantly more successful than the average brand’s promoted tweets. “For corporate advertisers, between 1 percent and 3 percent of Twitter users will engage with a Promoted Tweet by clicking, retweeting, replying to or marking it as a favorite. But with political Promoted Tweets, that number is as high as 20 percent,” he told Politico.
Other mediums like Hulu and Pandora also offer ad targeting at the zip code level. Hulu can be a phenomenal alternative to more expensive broadcast advertising. On Hulu, people are more likely to watch a commercial to its entirety, and the precise targeting helps campaigns serve more valuable impressions.
Social media is an important way to communicate with followers and develop a strong base, but the power of social media doesnt end there. Social ads allow campaigns to reach the right people at the right time. Failing to take advantage of the rich opportunities for targeting is certainly a wasted opportunity.