Why you should never use Facebook “boost” for political ads

February 7, 2023

Facebook “Boost” – Giving Facebook Campaign Funds for Nothing

We know it can be tempting when Facebook encourages you to “reach more people by boosting” when you make a post. But don’t. 

In the end, the “boost” feature is wasting your campaign dollars. There is actually no industry that recommends using the “boost” button. But many candidates (and even some elected officials, business owners, and otherwise savvy professionals) still use it.

Why you should never use Facebook “boost” for political ads

In Star Wars, a thermal detonator is a weapon that will vaporize everything in a 30-ft radius. It doesn’t matter what is inside that radius or what is above or below—it will be included. Facebook’s “boost” button works a lot like that.

Using the boost feature, you can select a radius around a certain point. You may be able to narrow slightly, but your options for targeting will be severely limited. At the time of this writing, you can only target ads via the boost feature by location, interest, age, and gender. Those are not enough for you to narrow only to potential voters. This will only waste your money. 

Not everyone on Facebook is a voter

Voting, like going to the movies or making annual trips to Disneyland, tends to be a habit only a few people share. Most people who are eligible to vote, don’t register, which makes them ineligible when the election rolls around. 

It’s important to know that everyone in your region will be eligible to vote. Some criminal records can bar people from voting and not everyone is a US resident. The Dallas-Fort Worth area, for example, is a highly international community. Many people come to the area for work or school, but don’t have American citizenship. 

Facebook would still include all of these people if they were within the radius of your “boost.”

Without knowing who is registered and having a way to target them, you are paying to reach people who couldn’t or wouldn’t vote for you.

The record-setting 2020 Presidential Election had the highest turnout of this century, with 66.8% of eligible people voting. That means around 33% of eligible voters sat out the election.

If you had been running ads in 2020 to just people you thought were eligible (say people over 18), you would have been wasting at least 33% of your budget, but almost certainly more.

Not all your page fans can vote for you

Facebook does allow you to “boost” to your page followers, but in the world of bots this can be a fruitless effort. Many candidates have friends and family outside their district. They can be a great source for donations and support, but they are not the people you need to persuade with your ads.

Almost always, Facebook page “likes” and followers will mostly be from outside a candidate’s district.

We had one client who could have been called an Instagram influencer. Even prior to running for office, he was well-known as a conservative leader and activist. He already had hundreds of thousands of Instagram followers when he announced his candidacy, but he had no public Facebook page.

We created his Facebook page, linked it to his Instagram, and posted his announcement video. Within days, his Facebook page had over 10,000 followers. That’s with no ads or promotion of any kind! 

However, taking a closer look at the insights for his page, we saw that only 12% of his followers were inside the district. Boosting an ad to his general Facebook following would have been a huge waste of money. 

Different messages for the right audiences make a big difference

Especially in a swing or purple district, you do not want to send independent or moderate General Election voters the same messaging as your hard-right activists in the Primary Election. “Boosting” does not give you a way to narrow your audience to people who share your values or who resonate with a particular message. Think of throwing spaghetti at a wall and just seeing if it sticks.

There are and will always be trolls regardless of what you do. However, you will get far more negative responses if your targeting doesn’t have a way of parsing out the people who may be offended by a given message. 

As we like to say, “don’t feed the trolls”. 

How to run Facebook ads the right way

Running Facebook ads via the Facebook Ads Manager gives you the most control and best placement options. 

Best practices for targeting political ads is to upload a data file of registered voters (usually Excel) to Facebook Ads Manager and use that to target. 

At Murphy Nasica & Associates, we use data analysis of public voter rolls to identify likely conservatives, right-leaning swing voters, or whoever we are trying to reach.

Facebook then takes this voter file and matches it to user information on Facebook. This means we can reach custom audiences of people who are eligible to vote and who will want to hear your message. 

We also use the same technique for targeting our display and “expanded network” ads outside social media. 

It is the best available method for reaching your voters online and ensures that you are reaching the relevant people while getting the most out of your ad dollars. It spends your money efficiently and helps reach the right voters!

TLDR: Don’t use the “boost” button. Hire us! 🙂 

Should my campaign use TikTok?

December 19, 2022

TikTok has taken the world by storm. With over 1 billion active users and more added every day, this burgeoning startup has led to a whole microcosm of creators, influencers, and thought leaders, but is it a good option for political candidates?

Some political figures have found great success on the app.

Sarah Stogner* in the Texas Primary for Railroad Commissioner made a TikTok video in which she appeared semi-nude while riding a pumpjack (her original post included the hashtag #humpjack). That video amassed tens of thousands of views and earned her large amounts of news media coverage.

Though the press was for the most part negative, that video is likely what put her into the runoff against incumbent Wayne Christian. It seems that in her case—a candidate with no money and no name ID—any press was considered good press. But if you are like most campaigns, this is probably not the kind of press you want.

However, TikTok is not just a place for partially clothed individuals straddling heavy machinery. With over a billion users, there is a niche for every kind of content from guns to gardening, geology to DIY glitter nails.

TikTok does also have a political space, however, participants tend to belong more to the fringe ends of the political spectrum.

For the inexperienced, looking at the available social platforms can be daunting and candidates feel as though they have to be on all of them to get attention. However, it’s important to know your audience and invest your presence where they are. Spreading a campaign across many platforms without a content plan tailored to those spaces takes up valuable time and does not always generate a meaningful return. 

What is best about TikTok is also what makes it bad for campaigns.

TikTok is not a social media platform.

TikTok has more in common with YouTube than with Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. TikTok should not be considered a social media platform, but more of a content discovery tool. While it does have social features, its algorithm weights toward content a user will consume, not necessarily content produced by people they follow.

(This is why an account with millions of followers might only have 10,000 views on their last video, while an account with less than a thousand might still get millions of views on their latest video.)

The app’s focus is not so much on connecting people (like with Facebook), but with serving people the kind of content that will keep them swiping through the endless scroll.

This means your followers can’t “share” your content to their feed the way they could on Facebook or Twitter. Nor can they invite their friends to “like” your content in the same way.

Rarely do voters seek out the kind of content that campaigns produce. A few engaged activists may seek out candidates, but most people will scroll away the instant they realize they are watching a candidate for office.

Paid advertising of any kind is not an option on TikTok

TikTok does have ads, but its ads network functions the same way as its algorithm. On Facebook (aka Meta), it is possible for us to upload a voter file and target only people registered to vote in a particular district.

On TikTok, we must target by interest and affiliation. There are some geographic options, but these are often inaccurate for the same reason Facebook’s boost feature is often inaccurate.

While influencer marketing can be powerful, TikTok has followed many other platforms in banning political ads altogether, including paid influencer deals.

This means that while users can discuss their own politics, if it comes out that a creator posted about anything related to politics or an election on behalf of another person or entity, the creator could have their content removed, their account suspended, or even have their account shut down.

Your voters are not on TikTok

TikTok’s algorithm has been a game-changer for how we consume content online. YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram have all made changes to their own algorithms to experiment with interest-based feeds over the old connection-based feeds.

But like those other platforms, TikTok has no interest in showing your content to people who can vote for you. These platforms are solely interested in showing your content to people who want to talk politics. Most of the time, these people make up only 3-4% of the voters we need to reach.

And despite having 1 billion users, TikTok is still a start-up. It is small potatoes compared to Google/ YouTube and Facebook/Instagram/Meta. Far more voters will use Facebook and Google than TikTok.

The most distinctive difference is that unlike YouTube and Facebook/Instagram/Meta, we can’t pay TikTok ad dollars to show our content to the voters who matter.

The worst part of TikTok for campaigns

It is very hard to get any benefit from TikTok as a campaign. Unless you are a national figure (AOC, Dan Crenshaw, etc.) you are unlikely to get any good traction on TikTok.

The most dangerous part of TikTok is how addictive it can be. Their interest-based algorithm can become a time suck for even the most focused candidate.

Sometimes, success can be even more time consuming. Once you have a video blow up, it can be tempting to pour more time into video creation, trying to recreate or surpass your previous number of views.

That is time spent on an app instead of at the door or at the polls, or persuading voters and talking to donors.

In closing: MNA advises our campaigns against using TikTok.

While we are definitely keeping our fingers on the pulse of TikTok, we do not recommend TikTok for campaigns at this time. Though their style of interest-based algorithm has been transplanted to other platforms, those other platforms still allow us to use voter-based ads and targeting.

Perhaps someday something will change and TikTok’s targeting will improve and/or they will allow us to place ads. Until then, we advise our candidates to avoid TikTok for campaign purposes.

*At the time of this writing, Sarah Stogner has never been a client of Murphy Nasica & Associates or our affiliated organizations.

How to knock doors as a candidate

December 12, 2022

Count your steps, count your votes. 

Don’t leave votes on the table and knock those doors.

When it comes to drumming up support and getting supporters to vote door knocking is one of the best things a candidate can do for their campaign. The impact of a candidate personally knock on someone’s door can’t be replaced by television, digital, mail, and text message advertising

Deciding to run for office means making a choice which requires a lot of leg work—literally. Campaigns have been won simply because candidates committed to knocking doors full-time for the duration of the campaign. Conversely, being too good for doors, not committing to knock them, or doubting their impact has left a potential winner to come up short.

Of course, the smaller the district the easier it is to knock every door. But that’s where other campaign advertising comes into play. There’s more than one way to reach a voter, but the candidate isn’t placing ads so they should be knocking doors. 

Candidates will always get better reception than family members, volunteers, or campaign workers, but here are some basic guidelines to help make a good impression and motivate voters to support you and most importantly, vote.

1. Approaching Doors 

Mind any plants or items decorating the front porch. If someone stomped up to your door and knocked around plants, decor, or deliveries you probably wouldn’t be inclined to talk to them. 

Knock or ring the doorbell, then take two or three steps back. This helps you appear non-threatening and puts distance between you and any aggressive pets.

Holding up a pushcard or something else with your campaign logo and smiling while you wait for the door to open is a great practice. And something you might want to practice, a forced smile is noticeable. 

2. Dressing for Success

Branding is essential. Wear any campaign shirts, pullovers, hats or other branding are a great way to signal that you’re with a campaign. Sneakers and shorts are acceptable and most voters understand, especially if you’re out walking in the Texas heat.

Sweating might be inevitable, but you should make sure you are at least presentable. Imagine if you were headed to a child’s ball game. 

This might be the most basic thing we share today, but make sure your hair and/or beard are trimmed, fingernails are clean, and basic hygiene is attended to. Voters will notice. 

3. Where to?

The idea of going to a neighborhood and knocking every door is an easy trap to fall into. But even the most dedicated candidate simply will not have the time. Less than half of eligible voters typically register to vote, much less actually turnout in any given election. Their doors will take up time and yield little results, best to target your approach. 

We recommend a voter file like the ones provided by our Data Team here at Murphy Nasica. They can be broken down into primary voters, independents, persuadable individuals, and just about any mix that makes sense for your campaign’s needs.  Knowing your target helps your conversation at the door, guides messaging, and creates success

Things can get more complicated if you have a mixed household where the spouse and/or children vote differently. Luckily, a voter file can still tell you this and ensure you are reasonably prepared when you approach a door.

4. Not after dark, please

Knocking most days from about 10am until 7pm or sunset (whichever comes first) is usually good practice. Waiting a few hours after dawn gives people time to get their day started. Though you are legally permitted in Texas to knock until 8pm, it’s a time when most voters are winding down, especially if they are elderly or have small children who need to be put to bed.

Holidays are a special exception and if a particular holiday is observed in your area, it’s important to be sensitive to that. Many holidays like Easter, Veterans Day, and Jewish feasts tend to happen during campaign season. Fourth of July and Memorial Day are also not the best times to be out door knocking.

Weekends are usually the best time to knock doors, but knocking before noon or one on Sundays is sometimes taboo in religious communities. 

Ultimately, a great practice is to think of if someone knocking on your door at a particular time would be frustrating. No one wants to open the door to a campaign before their morning coffee has even brewed. 

5. The not so nice reception

Not everyone is excited for the opportunity to talk about the races in their area. It’s inevitable a door knocker may interrupt families at dinner, ring a doorbell that woke a sleeping baby, and many other unforeseeable circumstances. Most people are friendly and will still listen to your message if you offer a sincere apology. 

If they ask (or perhaps even demand) that you leave, we do recommend you do. Sometimes, they will still want to take your pushcard or campaign literature and this is a positive sign. It’s important to remember you can’t win them all and trying to force the issue is not likely to help.

Unfortunately, sometimes there will be voters who want to argue a particular party stance. Occasionally, you might run into a friend or family member of your opponent.

Avoid arguing with voters, especially on their own doorstep. Be calm and courteous. If they bring up particular attacks you are prepared for, respond in a polite manner. 

It’s important to remember that “I don’t have an answer for you right now” is also always an acceptable response. Don’t get dragged into arguments with voters who are strongly partisan, or who are just trying to take up your time. It’s important to remember that while you should value each conversation and each voter’s time, one way to do this is to understand there are always more voters who want to hear from you. Spending twenty minutes at one door arguing with someone unlikely to vote for you means multiple voters who are likely to vote for you won’t hear from you.

6. “No soliciting”

Political activity is not considered “soliciting” because it is not for the sake of commerce and is protected under the First Amendment. However, not all residents will be aware of this.

Some people will still be upset regardless of whether they had a “no soliciting” sign or not. However, since meeting a candidate is such an unusual experience for most people they’re often still willing to speak with you

7. Make it fun, bring someone!

It is helpful for candidates to have a “handler” when out door knocking. This can be a spouse, friend, campaign volunteer, or campaign employee. 

This person’s job is mainly to track time. Most candidates enjoy speaking with people and most people have never gotten the chance to voice their concerns to a candidate. A handler can help keep things moving along and step into a conversation when things start going too long.

A handler can also be responsible for voter contact info if someone asks a question that requires a follow-up. 

You’ve got this! 

Like most things, the best way to get better at door knocking is practice. The more you do it, the better at it you’ll become. 

Meeting and speaking with voters is a great way to become more acquainted with the community. It can help the campaign to find some great insights on the dominant concerns, overall community attitude, and of course we love how it helps to bring home the win!

So get out there, knock some doors, and win that race. 

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