Attention political candidates: it's great that you're catching the online wave. But if you're advertising on Facebook, you may be wasting your money. A new study awaiting publication indicates that one week of Facebook ads produced little improvement in name recognition or favorability rating for a state legislative candidate:
Facebook allowed the campaign to spend a maximum of about $40 per day, or about $280 for the one week campaign.
After the campaign, the researchers surveyed 2,984 district voters. They found Facebook users who were exposed to the ads were no more likely to support or know of the candidate than people not exposed to the ads.
In fact, the users exposed to the ads were not any more likely to even remember seeing them.
"Indeed, the results allow us to confidently rule out the proposition that this veritable bombardment of online ads increased the candidate's name recognition in his district by more than 1.8 percentage points," the authors concluded [Brendan Sasso, "Facebook Campaign Advertisements Don't Work, Says New Study," The Hill: Hillicon Valley, October 21, 2012].
Co-author David Brookman acknowledges that the candidate may have gotten small but better bang for the $280 than would have accrued from yard signs or TV ads. However, Brookman contends that "Facebook ads are cheap because most groups doubt their value" [Sasso's words].
I welcome speculation as to what this Facebook finding means for political advertisers here on theÂ Madville Times and on the other political blog in this state that hosts political ads. Empirically, the Madville Times bats 1.000 in the correlation column for state legislative campaigns: Patricia Stricherz coupled advertising with regular participation in the comment section during the 2010 campaign, and she won a District 8 House seatÂ over long-serving incumbent Gerry Lange.
If we take a flying leap and hypothesize that political blogs can provide better value for political advertisers than Facebook, it might be because Facebook doesn't have the right algorithms or audience. Facebook, for all the data it has on me, can't figure out that I already subscribe to Netflix, don't need an iPhone or iPad cover, and that there's not a chance in heck that I'll vote for Kristi Noem. (Lest we think Facebook is uniquely dumb, the South Dakota Republican Party sent me my fourth Kristi brochure this week.) Plus, a big chunk of the people on Facebook are sharing memes about how they find their friends' political comments a tedious distraction from their vital discussions of the Packers and Farmville.
Here on the blog, I bring advertisers a self-selecting audience of politically engaged readers. Even if those folks aren't in an advertising legislator's district, they are the sort of folks who will take the time to have a conversation about politics and consider sending some campaign cash.
AndÂ at current rates, $50 a month, Madville Times advertisers get some face times with intelligent, motivated politicos statewide for less than twentieth the price of advertising on Facebook.
Three candidates—Charlie Johnson, Mike Knudson, and Jackie Swanson—have graciously chosen to advertise on the Madville Times this election season. We'll have a chance to evaluate the effectiveness of their online ad campaigns in just sixteen days!