Political campaigns are obsessed with two things: Telling every possible voter exactly what they want to hear in order to get them to the polls and cast the “right” vote, and telling them that message for as close to zero dollars as possible.
It’s not a surprise, then, that Facebook has focused its social-Sauron eye on the world of politics. Already a focal point of political activity (of varying quality), the site has shifted its toolset to let campaigns target extremely specific audiences with very specific messages, for prices somewhat north of zero dollars. The end goal for the company seems clear: Replace, as much as possible, expensive, blanketed television advertising with much more immediate, much more specific ads appearing in users’ feeds — and then cash a whole lot of checks.
The site has a proven ability to leverage social networks to political action. In our story about Facebook and politics earlier this month, we noted experiments in 2010 and 2012 in which Facebook explored how it could influence turnout. Four years ago, it introduced “Megaphone,” which let users tell their friends when they’d voted — and hundreds of thousands more people actually voted as a result. (This is the sort of thing that it seems like campaigns would be eager to add to their tool set — Eboch said he’d “definitely” be interested in it as a service — but a Facebook spokesman confirmed that it would not be a paid product.)
Facebook ads are “still more expensive,” Eboch says — costing $3 or $4 to show an ad to a very tailored universe of voters. That’s still cheaper than paying more to show it to a larger, more approximated group on cable television, especially since there’s no way to tell if the ad was seen, unlike on Facebook. It’s also pricier than targeting through YouTube, but it’s also more specific. “Facebook makes a powerful case” for video advertising because of that specificity, he said, but campaigns themselves are still wary. “We’re still a ways from the mentality that it’s about getting the right eyeballs and not just the eyeballs you can afford. I think Facebook can do it.” Facebook’s strong push into video indicates that it agrees. Video grew 50 percent on the network from May through July of this year.