The Power of Facebook
By Jessica Ellison Thomas, email@example.com
Many of the questions candidates have about their advertising strategy revolve around Facebook. There’s no doubt that the power of Facebook is tremendous, but so are the questions that come with best utilizing the all-too-confusing platform.
Where to start? Many people don’t realize that there is a difference between a personal Facebook page and a business Facebook page. As a political candidate, having a business Facebook page for your campaign will provide you with many insights and capabilities that a personal Facebook page does not. If you haven’t done it already, the first step to kicking off your political campaign on Facebook is to set up a business Facebook page. (If you don’t know how to create a business page, you can get started here: https://www.facebook.com/pages/create/?ref_type=logout_gear.)
There are basically two different ways that you can use your page: organic posts and paid advertising. Organic posts work in the same way that your personal Facebook page does — you post some text, maybe include a few pictures, and put the message out there for the world to see. On your personal Facebook page, your post will be displayed to some of your friends and followers. On a business Facebook page, your post is displayed to 4-6% of the people who like and follow your page. If it seems like you miss some of the things that business pages you follow are posting, then you’re right! And that’s because Facebook wants businesses to pay to reach the audience that Facebook is giving them.
Here’s where paid advertising on Facebook comes into play. Those of us who are already utilizing a business Facebook page have no doubt gotten prompts from Facebook to “Boost your post!” By boosting a post, Facebook is allowing us to pay to reach an audience greater than the typical 4-6% of our followers that we will be reaching organically. If you just click on that “Boost” button without providing additional targeting, Facebook will display your message to more of the audience that already follows your page without making any distinction between the various people who follow you. This is a great tactic to use when your post is getting good engagement on its own and the message doesn’t need to be targeted to a specific audience and the message is worth your money to boost it. Before you just click on that “Boost” button, think to yourself, “Would I be boosting this post if Facebook weren’t encouraging me to do it?”
Instead of just boosting a post without rhyme or reason, you can add targeting to your boost or you can create an entirely separate targeted ad. Does this message resonate well with moms but may not go quite as far with other constituents in your district? Then let’s target the ad to the lower hanging fruit and not waste our hard-raised dollars on the people who don’t care about this message. The main difference between a boosted post and an ad is that the post will “live” on your business Facebook wall. If someone scrolls down far enough, they will find that post on your page. In contrast, an ad does not appear on your wall, so the only people who will see it are those who fit our targeting criteria. Whether creating an ad or boosting a post, it is always a good idea to add in targeting, even if the targeting is as basic as the geography you’re reaching. After all, you wouldn’t want to pay to reach people who can’t vote for you!
Now that your campaign page is set up and we know the difference between organic posts and paid ads, it’s time to determine the strategy behind using your new Facebook page. Best practice is to make a calendar for your social media messaging. Whether you plan out a month or a week ahead, it is critical to always have some presence online. I recommend having at least a loose plan for a month ahead of time so that you can clearly see what you talk about a lot and what you don’t talk about enough. Just as in campaigning, it’s important to have a mix of messaging that resonates with different voters. Seeing your messaging over time will give you a good idea of the true presence of your campaign. It’s very easy to get caught up in the details of your messaging, but don’t forget that the big picture is even more important when it comes to campaign success.
If you’re fascinated by the strategic use of social media or if you just want to learn more, here are some tips for political candidates from Facebook itself:
Congratulations on getting petitions submitted, happy holidays, and best of luck on the campaign!