Facebook spending do’s and don’ts

Jim Arkedis

June 12, 2020 3:52 pm

Here’s a New York Times headline from early June:

Sounds about right. If you’ve ever run a digital campaign, particularly outside the US, you’ve probably poured a bunch of money into Facebook.

The question is WHY. What are your strategic aims using the tool that everyone in campaigning uses? Is it to persuade people to your candidate or position?

Because that’s not why the Biden campaign is using Facebook:

The most heavily run Facebook ads ask people to sign a petition “condemning” Mr. Trump, and feature a photo of the president walking past a line of security officers in riot gear outside the White House last week. They accuse the president of fanning “the flames of white supremacy, hatred and violence.” Other petition ads feature images of sign-waving protesters outside the United States Capitol.

The initial wave of Biden ads set a goal of persuading one million people to sign the petition; that goal had jumped to 2.5 million by Saturday, with current ads suggesting that more than 1.2 million people have already signed.

The ads are running nationally, not just in battleground states, and appear intended mostly to harvest the names, email addresses, ZIP codes and mobile numbers of potential supporters. This information is very valuable: Once these new supporters are in Mr. Biden’s database, the campaign can return to them to ask for money over and over through November.

The Biden campaign isn’t trying to persuade people to vote for Joe. They’re using Facebook to find people who: 1) hate Donald Trump so much they’re willing to sign a petition condemning him, 2) aren’t in their database yet, and 3) the campaign can raise money from in the future.

In other words, Joe Biden is not using Facebook to persuade undecided voters.


Facebook is not optimized – by design – to persuade people who don’t think like you. It is optimized to find your friends – people who are already disposed to like you. If you’re an unenthusiastic, disengaged, low-information voter, the chances are too big that you see a Biden ad pop up in your timeline, you’re going to scroll right over it.

If you happen to be someone who’s engaged in politics and hates Trump, you’re much more likely to stop on a Biden ad and lend your voice to his campaign.

In other words: Only use Facebook to build a database of friendly supporters. Don’t waste your money on Facebook trying to persuade voters. There are better ways to do it online.

Our solution is programmatic advertising, a GDPR-compliant, audience-first approach that targets your persuadable audience and delivers them non-skippable content, no matter where they are online.

We’re happy to tell you more, of course.


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