I've written before about the problems Facebook can cause for campaigns. I want to start with a disclaimer: Facebook can be useful for campaigns. But it cannot be a central piece of your campaign.
I'll start with four problems your campaign should be aware of with Facebook:
- It doesn't replace door to door voter contact.
Because everyone is on Facebook and there are a ways to target voters, I often see candidates try to replace their actual voter contact with Facebook. It's easier. It doesn't require the candidate to go door to door in the heat and in the rain talking to voters who may or may not be home. But it isn't effective, because...
- Most of your posts won't be seen by anyone unless you pay to promote them.
Facebook has changed dramatically in the last few years. Brands - including candidates - can no longer get their message out for free. It would take months to get enough people liking your page to make an impact, and even those who like the page don't see most of your posts. Unless you pay for ads.
- If you're going to pay for ads, it needs to be part of your voter contact budget.
Often I see candidates adopt the strategy I warn against in point 1. They try to use Facebook as a replacement for voter contact. When they see the results - less than 5% of their followers see their posts - they decide to pay for promoted posts to increase that number. But that's not the right strategy. More on this below.
- The people following your Facebook page aren't undecided voters
Most of the people following your Facebook page are your supporters, your opponents supporters and media. Facebook isn't a good tool for persuading undecided voters unless you use highly targeted ads to do so.
Facebook can be helpful in few ways.
When you begin your campaign, create a campaign plan. As part of that plan, you need to decide what sort of paid ads you will do. For local candidates, that won't normally be television. It will be some mix of radio ads, direct mail pieces and digital ads. Facebook can be part of your digital ad strategy. Just be sure its included in the plan, and mapped out in advance.
Facebook can also be useful in organizing your supporters. When you set up a page, link back to your website so supporters can find more information about you. Then post your fundraising events, rallies and any other campaign events on your Facebook page. Use it as a way to keep your supporters informed about what you're doing.
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