Facebook’s decision to allow users to block political ads is effectively suppressing speech from local advocacy groups, ballot initiatives, and down-ballot campaigns.
While well-funded presidential or senatorial campaigns may not be impacted, House and issue advocacy campaigns will certainly be hit the hardest.
These grassroots organizations and campaigns, limited by budget restraints, have heavily relied on Facebook’s cost-effective platform for outreach and marketing. But now that users can choose to opt-out of all political ads, this will no longer be the case.
Smaller organizations and campaigns will now be forced to seek out alternative forms of digital outreach and marketing such as email and SMS text messaging.
Once you build up your list of supporters, start creating a sense of community. You can send surveys to gain a better understanding to your supporter’s positions on the issues you’re fighting to solve. Keep your list motivated by sending action alerts or petitions that keep them to engage with your issues.
While it’s not a Facebook marketing campaign, a robust grassroots email list has incredible value — beyond just as a tool to raise money for your campaign. A winning campaign will focus on mobilizing a list to take other actions such as volunteering, attending events, and GOTV, in addition to fundraising to fuel your campaign.
Building a sense of community with supporters and potential supporters is more important now than ever before. Because authenticity matters, campaigns and issue groups must target the right person with the right message.
Analytics, segmentation, and contact strategy are critical to winning. Treating people like people, and not rows in a database, allows campaigns to create a unique message that will resonate with donors and voters.
In fact, testing on email over the years shows people even read the paid-for disclaimer at the bottom of the email, and definitely take advantage of unsubscribing.
Your campaign’s email content strategy cannot simply be to say “the world is ending if you don’t contribute today.” That message may seem like it works for raising money quickly, but those people will burn out and you’ll lose them when it’s time to get them to the polls. People give to campaigns and candidates they like, so It’s important to be authentic and build brands around several people in your organization. The message and tone you're sending from the manager, political director, and finance director should be different.
A comprehensive digital strategy should focus on acquiring email addresses and cell phone numbers for known supporters and those likely to move your way.
Moreover, campaign teams need an up-to-date content calendar that outlines which audiences are receiving which types of messages: fundraising, political, or advocacy.
Finally, it’s important to determine if email or text messaging is the best way to reach them for that type of message.
The fact is allowing people to opt-out of all advertising with paid-for boxes removes authenticity from the platform and allows more people to become exposed to content that could be described as "fake news.”
At a time when Big Tech companies are silencing political messaging, it’s critical for grassroots campaigns to take control of your narrative and speak directly to the people.
Parks Bennett is the co-founder of Campaign Inbox, a direct response marketing firm specializing in donor and voter communications.