Digital consultants say they’re eager to invest resources in the new “political influencer” targeting just rolled out by Facebook.
The industry’s response is a marked contrast to the tepid enthusiasm that greeted the unveiling of Google’s new campaign offering. That tool, called Customer Match, allows campaigns to target supporters with search, Gmail and YouTube pre-roll ads based on their email addresses. But consultants said it did little to close the gap between the two companies.
The new Facebook tool allows campaigns to target their posts and display ads to politically active users. And the reaction from the digital sector of the campaign industry suggests the social media company’s grip on online budgets is likely to continue.
“You can get people to respond to you for about $1 a person,” said Brian Ross Adams, a Democratic digital consultant based in Los Angeles, Calif. “It’s probably the best use of your money.”
After making the announcement last week, Facebook said the new service is available for campaigns “at the presidential level all the way to local dog catcher.”
“We’re designating pages that are political pages, which means that this audience is likely to engage, like and share [a campaign’s] content with others,” said Eric Laurence, who leads Facebook’s political industry marketing effort in its D.C. office.
The thinking is that a campaign’s content is more attractive — or trusted — when it’s shared by a friend in a user’s network. Being able to target politically active individuals could give a campaign an edge with fundraising or messaging.
In the absence of first-person or voter-file data, Laurence recommended a campaign start with Facebook’s Custom Audiences to find their core audience and then layer in political influencers. “You’re essentially getting lower into that funnel,” he said.
Pricing for the service is auction based, meaning campaigns pay for the contacts they make.
Ian Patrick Hines, a Maryland-based Republican digital consultant, said being able to get content in front of like-minded supporters is key.
“By allowing us to focus on our most politically active voters first, Facebook is empowering us to invite those folks to be a part of the campaign from day one,” he said. “If you can engage these folks early, and earn their support, then they’ll become the core of your digital grassroots network.”
Facebook touts the service as a tool for persuasion or fundraising, and those purposes dovetail nicely, according to Adams.
He noted that campaigns can now identity Facebook users who’ve donated to political causes in addition to politically active users.
“If you’re looking to identify likely voters, it’s a cheaper way to acquire a voter than a phone bank or traditional door knocking,” Adams said.
The new feature, he added, is a refinement of Facebook’s existing tools. “Now you’re really not just hitting the 80,000 people in your district — you’re hitting the 8,000 people who actually care and vote,” he said. “You’re ability to target like mail consultants target is greatly expanded.”