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Political Campaigning Enters Age of Technology

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Rep. Joe Wilson used Google AdWords to direct controversy-spurred Internet searches to their official websites.

According to Twitter Director of Communications Matt Graves, promoted tweets, which appear within a user’s Twitter feed even if they are not following the advertiser’s account, were introduced in April of last year, and promoted accounts, which appear as the first suggestion of “Who to follow” along the right side of a user’s home page, were introduced in October 2010.

Both of those features operate on a bidding system, where advertisers bid to have their tweets or account names appear on users’ Twitter home pages. Promoted trends, which appear slightly farther down the right side of a user’s home page, were introduced in June of last year and can be purchased for $120,000 per country per day, Graves said.

According to Graves, targeting on Twitter is done by a few factors, including which accounts — and national campaigns — a user already follows, any lists the user is on and the self-reported content of a user’s profile, such as describing oneself as a “political junkie.”

Graves said that a benefit of the promoted content on Twitter is its placement within the site.

“These are just normal tweets,” he said of the material that appears either within a user’s Twitter feed or directly alongside it. “They’re appearing where people expect them to appear.”

Although it’s not accessible to Congressional offices just yet, people are already looking forward to the continued opening of promoted content on Twitter.

“I think it’s fantastic,” Jacobs said, explaining that, in his experience, Twitter’s setup encourages users to leave the site to consume outside content more than Facebook’s does. “People are much more accustomed to click links on Twitter that take them off Twitter,” he said.

Jacobs also pointed to the placement of advertising on Twitter. “Ad placement is much more advantageous than Facebook,” he said, citing studies that show how users read websites. Typically, he said, users read more of the top of a website and less as they scroll down. “Twitter advertising is much more mobile-friendly than Facebook advertising,” he added.

But whether you’re in office or running for one, using Google AdWords or Facebook, or waiting patiently to hop on the Twitter bandwagon, strategists often stress the importance of tailoring online advertising strategies to the race.

“Every race, every candidate, every district is different,” Donehue said.

Correction: Dec. 13, 2011

The article incorrectly stated that Congressional campaigns cannot purchase promoted content on Twitter. Twitter promoted content is currently open to Congressional campaigns.

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