Why Aren't More Local Ballot Initiatives On Facebook?

Tomorrow, voters across the U.S. determine the fate of 27 different local ballot questions, and only five of them have Facebook pages.

These five initiatives — in Ohio, Maine, New Jersey, Georgia and Mississippi — have both pro- and anti- campaigners on Facebook organizing pages, events or viral messaging.

Voters across the country have faced a total of 34 ballot initiatives in 2011, as seven of them have had other election dates scheduled, yet only the aforementioned five questions have had Facebook campaigns.

It seems odd that any political campaign in the U.S. wouldn’t show up on Facebook, since the site is becoming a mobilizing and advocacy tool for campaigns at the local, state and certainly, the federal level.

One reason for the absence: Many ballot efforts are hyper-local. The issue itself may be hard for the lay public to understand, therefore, hard to communicate to a broader audience.

And some of the issues not showing up on Facebook target voters who, believe it or not, don’t use social media. Examples: rural areas or impoverished neighborhoods.

Creating a Facebook page on a hot-button issue, such as the right of labor unions to bargain, known as Issue 2 in Ohio, or the Mississippi vote over “personhood,” makes sense because the issue is compelling and controversial.

There are strong feelings on both sides of the issue, tailor made for using Facebook to share links, encourage friends to get involved, and get out the vote.

Any movement can benefit from using Facebook. Here are a few suggestions of Facebook tools to employ in your next campaign.

Video

Some high-profile ballot efforts are using video ads to mobilize supports, such as Ohioans’ use of firefighters to advocate against Issue 2.

Campaigns can identify a group who will be affected by their measure, and humanize them through video.

And with the new technologies available today, it doesn’t necessarily have to be a slickly produced ad.

An ad could be as simple as using a computer’s webcam to capture an advocate talking coherently about an issue, that can be posted to Facebook.

Paid Ads

Depending on the size and budget of a campaign, Facebook’s paid ads — especially sponsored stories, which perform the best –are a great way to advocate for a cause or candidate in your friend’s news feeds.

Events

Some of the ballot initiatives have created simple Facebook events to remind voters to go to the polls tomorrow, asks them to RSVP.

Other friends can see whether you plan to vote, and may decide to follow your example.

Share

Facebook’s sharing capabilities are so valuable for campaigns. Sharing a link of a recent news story is a cost-effective way to educate friends about an issue. Or suggest a page for your friends to like.

Simply enabling someone affected by the measure, or with deep knowledge on the issue, to post a comment on a Facebook page is an effective tool to educate and inform your friends about an issue.

Subscribe

The new subscribe feature on Facebook is a transparency tool that enables the average voter to get updates from elected officials and journalists without becoming friends.

Voters can follow a journalist writing about a local school board measure, or a local or statewide elected official to learn how they plan on voting on a particular bill.

Apps

Don’t forget about applications introduced during previous elections — it’s never too late to install one on a Facebook page, like Don’t Forget to Votewhich spread like wildfire last year.

This chart from Ballotpedia details the major ballot initiatives of 2011. Here’s a look at just some of the other measures up for a vote tomorrow.

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