Saying that things are normal right now would be a drastic understatement, especially in politics, and even more so in the digital space. We are right in the middle of a very important election, while also dealing with a global pandemic; things could not be more complicated. Many campaigns (including Presidential candidate Biden) are struggling to raise money and get donations from people while unemployment rates are at an all-time high, the shelter in place orders have made all traditional door-to-door canvassing efforts go out the window, and people are being inundated every day with news, “news” and nonsense. So what do we do about it? The truth is that you might love or hate my answer.
People are donating less right now, with good reason. They don’t know where the economy will be in a few weeks or might have lost their main source of income. So every dollar you have on hand as a campaign needs to be spent in the most efficient way. Whether you are focusing on fundraising, GOTV, or persuasion, digital should be your number one spending priority going forward (truthfully it always should have been). Let’s start with mail, right now mail is behind not only figuratively - it is literally behind: People are expecting a delay in post for anything that is considered “nonessential”. Even before COVID, there was always issues with people getting mailers at the wrong time (i.e after they voted), getting them delivered to the wrong address, or not ever getting them at all. There is also no way to fully measure the RoI of mail -- aside from carefully designed experiments. How do you know if someone received it? If they did receive it, how do you know it made it past the front door and not straight into the recycling box, not to mention that mailers aren’t very environmentally friendly.
Moving on to TV. When I say TV, I mean linear (read: traditional) TV. More and more Americans are becoming “cord-cutters”, this refers to individuals who are canceling their subscriptions to multichannel television services available over cable or satellite. A MoffettNathanson report stated that the first quarter of 2019 was the largest ever for cord-cutting, with an annual drop rate of traditional TV of 3.8%. Traditional TV is also one of those mediums where you can’t ensure anyone really saw the ad, you can’t personalize it & you can’t show your ad to a custom audience, yet linear TV ads are one of the most expensive forms of advertising that still has a large grip on political advertising. TV ads are great if you have one blanket message you want to get to everyone, and all you really care about is exposure and brand awareness.
Every campaign should think of digital as the most effective way to reach their constituents, now more than ever. With the use of custom audiences, campaigns should be able to target individuals on most platforms & personally cater the messaging per audience. This allows a campaign to fully utilize digital in many different forms, such as community organizing, digital canvassing, persuasion, awareness, acquisitions, and GOTV.
Yet, Facebook spend comes with pitfalls that could turn your digital strategy quickly into a marketing disaster. We break this down below:
Facebook Do’s and Don’ts
- Don’t upload your email list to Facebook and call it a day. And most importantly: Don’t create a lookalike audience of that list. After all those list swaps, it feels like all campaigns are basically using the same lists of donors over and over again. The 1% lookalike audience has been viewed as something of a “go-to workaround” (as opposed to custom lists) for many campaigns, which has led to campaigns unfortunately assuming these audiences will automatically perform better than other audiences. But, remember this lookalike is built on the same or at least a very similar seed audience. In effect, your 1% lookalike are the same folks, and this means over-crowding: When campaigns are fighting for the same audiences, ads become less relevant, have a lower impression rate, and the cost per impression (CPM) rises. Using Predictwise audience technology, built on proprietary data, allows campaigns to keep their audience uber targeted while still maintaining their reach & casting a wide net on Facebook. PredictWise audiences integrate into Facebook with a market-leading match rate.
- Place ads on Facebook, but don’t dedicate your whole ad budget to Facebook. Facebook is great when it comes to acquisition (though we have seen Cost Per Acquisition rise recently, but that is for another day), awareness, and information/education campaigns. Facebook still continues to be one of the top 3 widely used platforms, with adult users age 65 and up being the largest demographic group on Facebook. Instagram, however, has a much younger audience with 75% being 18–24-year-olds & 57% 25–30-year-olds. Just as you wouldn’t fixate on one political message for an entire campaign, why would you only spend your ad buy on one platform?
- Don’t combine your Facebook and Instagram buys unless you plan on spreading just one big universal message. The demographics for Facebook & Instagram are different, as mentioned above, meaning that the messaging, creative and overall goal should be different. People don’t interact with ads on Instagram the same way they do on Facebook, so why would you target them the same way? Also thinking of them as two separate buys will help with reporting & analysis when digging into which methods worked & which did.
- Do test multiple creatives, messages, targeting & ad formats when available, especially when targeting diverse communities of color. Latinx folks, for example, are expected to make up the largest nonwhite ethnic voting bloc in 2020. A study we conducted together with Equis Labs showed a glimpse of exactly how diverse the Latinx community is. With a community this large & this diverse, you wouldn’t just target one Latinx audience with one message and call it a day. Instead, you are better off creating multiple custom audiences based on age, language preferences, ethnicity, and geographic location. To summarize, the strategy you should use to target a Cuban American in Florida should not be the same one you use for a second-generation Mexican American in California and so forth.
Have questions about any of the strategies or methodologies mentioned above? If so please contact firstname.lastname@example.org & someone from our team will reach out to you!