Rep. Joe Wilson used Google AdWords to direct controversy-spurred Internet searches to their official websites.
Foxwell estimates that about 150 Congressmen are using Facebook advertising. According to a case study done about the company, offices that placed Facebook ads with the help of iConstituent for one week received three times as much constituent interaction on the Member’s official Facebook page. The case study summarized the results as being a “10X return on investment as compared to a traditional, glossy paper mailer for one-tenth of the price.”
For Donehue, Facebook is the way to go if you want to target specific groups in a geographically small district.
“Facebook is the best way to go if you’re trying to reach a really niche audience,” he said, citing Facebook’s ability to target based on user-supplied, specific information. “You can’t get that level of targeting through Google.”
Donehue added that this could change if Google’s social media platform, Google Plus, gains steam. Google then would have access to similar information about its users, giving it a better ability to target advertisements.
Two-Way Traffic Foxwell views Facebook ads as a way not just to advertise to constituents but to engage with them.
“Facebook and Twitter are essential tools for a 21st-century democracy,” he said. “If we can collectively re-engage our citizens using technology and social media by breaking down barriers for meaningful dialogue, then we are doing something right by ensuring these mediums are used by Members’ official offices.”
Of course, the marketplace of ideas is a rough-and-tumble place. But that doesn’t bother Foxwell.
“Even if you get people speaking negatively, at least their voice is being heard,” he said.
Others have reservations when it comes to Facebook ads, despite the low price. Jacobs said Facebook users are often on the website for social, not political, reasons. “When you’re on Facebook, you’re not looking for that information like you are when you’re searching on Google,” he said.
Jacobs also said that getting the attention of Facebook users, such as getting people to “Like” a page or status update, is not necessarily the same as getting voters. “You’re getting them into your Facebook group, you’re not getting their email address,” he said, adding, “I’d rather get 10,000 email addresses than 100,000 Facebook fans.”
On the engaging aspect of Facebook: Well-known politicians don’t need to advertise to get feedback, and lesser-known politicians can look like they just want attention. “You want to at least show the flag. But Facebook users have already become savvy enough that they see through gimmicks designed to get them to click on an ad,” Jacobs said.
While Jacobs would suggest covering one’s bases by purchasing Facebook ads, he urges clients to also devote resources to other methods. “We had far more success with video and paid search, both in terms of the percentage of the clicks that turned into sign-ups and the cost per acquisition,” he said, referring to the 2010 campaign of then-Rep. Tom Perriello, although the Virginia Democrat lost.
Bid on a Tweet The next big thing on the horizon for Congressional offices and campaigns? Promoted content on Twitter.