Commentary

Leveraging Facebook (For The Time Being)

Attention, campaign managers and principals. Permit me to clue you into something your digital people already know well but that you may be discounting when they say it because it sounds self-serving: Facebook will require more of your campaign resources to use well in 2016 than it did in 2012, 2014, or even this month. The social media colossus is increasingly important and increasingly complex.

Targeted sharing provides the case in point. You may remember from the 2012 post-mortems how the Obama campaign made an app available to its supporters that allowed them to ship their “social graphs” of Facebook friends to headquarters, whereupon they received strategically optimized instructions to send this video or that reminder to these friends whose votes the campaign wanted most. Teddy Goff, Obama’s digital director, told Michael Scherer of Time that the targeted sharing app would “wind up being the most groundbreaking piece of technology developed for this campaign.” It enabled the campaign to contact hard-to-reach-otherwise segments of the electorate (mainly young voters) through their peers.  

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As of April 30, 2015, however, targeted sharing is history. Facebook has decided to close off that communication route. “It creeped people out,” U.S. Politics & Government Outreach Manager Crystal Patterson told GSPM students at a Feb. 28 teaching session. “Users let us know that allowing apps to access their friends lists created a bad Facebook experience — we made the change so each person decides what information they want to share.”

Henceforth, campaign marketers can purchase ads through Facebook that target “customized” and “lookalike” audiences.

Alternately, as EPolitics.com Editor Colin Delany noted recently, a campaign can contract with such Facebook-oriented shops as ActionSprout and craft content designed to “hack” the semi-inferable algorithm that determines placement on users’ News Feeds.

The new options must be learned and mastered because Facebook is simply too big to ignore. Its aggregate audience reach exceeds all other media networks unless you count the Internet as a medium, and its capacity for peers-to-peers (note the plural) engagement facilitates persuasion and mobilization, if not attention-getting. For campaigns that already have a winning coalition within grasp, a full-time Facebook page manager/rule change monitor makes sense as a staff position. Campaigns in need of broadening their coalitions may need to emphasize other channels. But the innovation to monetization to routinization process in force regarding Facebook usage for politics is not something for anyone to fall behind the curve on. Your Millennial consultants are right: You have to mind Facebook constantly.

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