This time of year many campaigns are looking for a cost effective and quick way to raise their name ID and get their campaign’s message out to targeted voters in the districts they’re competing in. Now, social media should be a key piece to their messaging strategy, especially if they’ve not raised enough money to do a heavy mail program or secured spots on coveted advocacy group slates.
When campaigns talk about using social media for online advertising they should be aware that social media advertising doesn’t function exactly like traditional advertising. For instance, the term “impressions” will invariably come up with the advertiser explaining that this is the amount of times your social media ad will be shown to targeted eyeballs. A frequently used comparison would be a billboard or magazine advertisement.
But whereas a billboard ad or magazine ad can estimate (at best) a given number of impressions you’ll receive if you advertise with them, social media platforms can actually accurately count the amount of times your message has been viewed because their monitoring system is as sophisticated as anything that has been developed by the marketing world.
Facebook in particular knows what we view, how long we view it for, if we slow down when viewing it, how we interact with it and if we want more of what its saying or displaying. That’s a big improvement from a potential viewer driving by a billboard or flipping through a magazine in a doctor’s office.
After this is established and understood, the next question I usually get from clients is, “Where can I see my ad?” That’s where things get tricky.
Social media ads don’t exist in a defined space like, say, a microsite with a URL or a page takeover that runs on a site for a set time. Social media ads are part of the social universe and are therefore, constantly in motion, delivering to your targeted audience at a time and place that the platform decides based on the users own newsfeed algorithm.
At the recent F8 Conference, Adam Mosseri, Facebook’s VP of product news feed, went through exactly how Facebook's infamous News Feed works. For starters, Mosseri noted that when publishers first post content, or ads into News Feed: “[A]t that moment, nothing happens. It’s not until the people that follow that publisher open up Facebook that we look at that story and all the other stories that we could show them and then try to figure what they're most interested in."
This underlines, Mosseri explained, that the system, even at a technical level is very user-centric. It’s built around each user's individual preferences and actions, not dictated by the content itself.
Therefore, if you have an ad campaign that’s targeting roughly 80,000 people, the targeted audience will never see the ad at the same time or in the same place. The ad will be delivered to them over the course of your campaign based on when Facebook determines the user is most receptive to it.
In other words, if social media is a river of news and information, then your ad will be a like a brief moment of the river flowing downstream. It won’t exist in a defined time or space, but will be part of the flow of information that most people in our society have become increasingly obsessed with.
Brian Ross Adams is a Los Angeles-based digital consultant to Democratic campaigns and advocacy groups.