Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Politicians and social media

My colleagues at Banyan Branch get a little tired of me complaining about the many political social media mistakes I see. So instead of boring them with my latest observations (who am I kidding, they still heard about this) I will let you bask in my disappointment with our elected officials and their use of social media.

Senator Maria Cantwell is running for re-election.... in 2012. Normally with an election just two months away, we wouldn't expect to see ads for a candidate running for the election that takes place in the following year. Not anymore. Sure this ad isn't a major television buy, but it probably wasn't cheap either.

At first glance, this looks like a pretty good Facebook ad. It is clear, compelling and asks me to do something when I click. So far so good.

It even asks me to recommend the link and tweet it out after I have signed the petition, with Maria Cantwell's twitter handle too! Wow this is going great! 16,000 people have signed it, not bad.

Now comes the hard part of managing facebook ads. This is probably an ad campaign that pays for impressions rather than clicks. I can tell this because Facebook doesn't present ads that you have already clicked on when campaign is set up to pay by the click. The Cantwell campaign has been running this ad for a week and I have seen it many times. Thus it is probably an ad that is paying for impressions and will charge the campaign the same regardless of how many people click it.

This is all well and good for an early experiment likely designed to remind Washingtonians who Maria Cantwell is (she keeps a pretty low profile on the national political scene) and to get the base fired up since she doesn't even have an opponent yet.

When you create your Facebook ads campaign with a pay for click model, you can set it so you don't show your ad to people who have already clicked your ad. Senator Cantwell has enough money to waste on Facebook ads like this, but why not spend the money hiring more organizers rather than showing me, one of her most ardent supporters the same ad over and over again?

I have also been trying to help the campaign by convincing them to not use third party apps to post to Facebook. It has recently been quantified that using apps like Hootsuite dramatically decreases the number of likes and comments your post receives. This makes total business sense. Facebook wants you to use their interface so you look at their ads and keep their number of pageviews as high as possible. So I don't blame Facebook, I blame the campaign for not taking my free social media advice. See for your self:

This is part of a bigger problem with the way politicians and non-profits use Facebook and other social media tools. They treat it as just another way to broadcast their message when the real power of social media is building connections and interacting with your fans. If the campaign had just put in the effort to at least acknowledge my comment I would have felt much better about this and not felt like the campaign wasn't even reading the comments people are making.

So come on Senator Cantwell lets social media the way it was designed and try actually engaging with your supporters instead of just broadcasting.


  1. Re: the ad, you kind of addressed the reasons why impression-based makes sense, don't you think? She's reminding people that she's there, and she's got a reelection campaign starting soon (or even now). The ad isn't about getting people to sign the petition, it's about making the casual campaign volunteer from six years ago think "Hmm.. maybe it's time to call them up again, see how I can help."

  2. Absolutely John. This campaign would make sense, if they monitored and responded to ANY of the comments people left on her posts. But I haven't seen any interaction from the campaign, its just broadcasting and that is what I have a problem with.