Paul Ryan Finds Winning Facebook Formula As Campaign Strategists Name Favorite Features

With Election Day only 40 days away in a cycle that’s been dubbed the first “social” election, campaigns are working overtime to gain an advantage on Facebook in order to motivate supporters and get out the vote.

A look at the Facebook pages for each presidential campaign says a lot about how the race on Facebook is managed behind-the-scenes. For example, while President Barack Obama leads Republican challenger Mitt Romney in Facebook fan page likes, it might surprise you to learn that Romney actually leads Obama in the people talking about this metric.

Vice Presidential nominee Paul Ryan is outpacing Vice President Joe Biden by leaps and bounds in both fan page likes and people talking about this, putting the Wisconsin native more in the league of his running mate and the president than the vice president. Ryan’s strength on Facebook makes me wonder why the Obama team — which pioneered the use of social media in presidential politics — isn’t doing more to make Biden competitive on Facebook. There appears to be a clear strategy to funneling all of the campaign’s digital resources into Obama’s Facebook presence.

Ryan’s Facebook team appears to be more aggressive.  One strategist on Capitol Hill with knowledge of the Ryan approach says the team has done a good job with Facebook growth and shows a willingness to try different methods.

While Zac Moffatt, top digital strategist for the Romney campaign, has talked openly about his team’s focus on engagement, Facebook ads have also played a role in the Republican presidential campaign’s fan growth.  It wouldn’t be a surprise to this strategist if the Romney campaign’s Facebook ad buy totaled $250,000 per week.

There’s certainly nothing wrong with using Facebook ads to spur growth. Obama had made a significant investment in using Facebook ads in myriad ways, including as a cornerstone of the campaign’s voter-registration drive — an issue that Democrats in particular have invested heavily in promoting across the country.

We asked digital strategists about some of their favorite Facebook features this election year.

Custom Audiences

Ryan Cassin, a partner with Connect Strategic Communications, a firm that works primarily with Republican candidates for the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate, named this new Facebook feature as his favorite tool:

Something we’re excited about is the brand-new custom audiences ad targeting. Our campaigns have all spent a year or more building massive email lists, and now being able to target these supporters directly on Facebook is great timing for us. We’re looking forward to watching the click-through rate for ads targeted to supporters we may not have been reaching on Facebook before, especially with ads pushing last-minute fundraising.

With custom audiences, campaigns can now target very specific voting groups and quantify their reach like never before. For example, a campaign could target senior citizens who are interested in fiscal issues and lost a child in Iraq.

People Talking About This

GOP digital strategist Vincent Harris says his go-to metric is the people talking about this number:

This cycle has made timeline incredibly important, and the ability of candidates to properly showcase visually their records. When it comes to advertising, mobile advertising and Facebook’s new power editor are new and improved tools that are incredibly helpful for candidates. Mobile CTRs are sky high.

In the waning days of the race, expect both campaign’s to leverage Facebook’s ad targeting features to get specific voting groups to the polls.  One strategist said he expects to see both camps use open graph integration, as well as location-based targeting and ads promoting sponsored search results.

Readers: Have you clicked on any Facebook ads from politicians this election year?

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

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