Republican candidates like Virginia’s Ed Gillespie bet on Facebook and other social media sites in hopes that the online “likes” would transfer to the ballot boxes, and Gillespie’s gamble almost paid off in the Nov. 4 midterm elections.
Even though polls the day before the election showed Gillespie behind Virginia powerhouse Sen. Mark Warner by seven points, Gillespie still pulled to within 16,700 votes, or less than 1 percent of Warner, reports Politico Magazine, and he says his campaign’s online push deserves the credit.
“I’m a believer in it,” said Gillespie. “I knew we would be outspent and that the digital element of the campaign is a way to help mitigate being outspent.”
Gillespie’s campaign cost $5.9 million, and it spent about half a million, or 47 cents a vote, on digital targeting. But he wasn’t the only one: Republicans Joni Ernst in Iowa and Cory Gardner in Colorado each spent about the same amount on digital targeting in the last few weeks of their winning Senate campaigns.
Their moves were made after Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus called on candidates to close the digital gap, and follow-up interviews with GOP strategists indicate that the gap did close some during this election cycle, reports Politico.
Gillespie, who was RNC chairman during the Bush campaign in 2004, saw firsthand the effects of microtargeting, and notes that even then “buying time on the Golf Channel was seen as a big thing.”
But 10 years later, the marketing has become more sophisticated. In addition to chasing Facebook “likes,” candidates can connect with voters through streaming video ads on sites like Hulu and YouTube, and engage with them through Twitter, allowing them to speak directly with voters without having to go through the media.