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Political Ads + Social Media: How is social media used in politics?

The use of political ads on social media has evolved over time. Media Now explains the challenges, advantages, and how to be more transparent on social media.

With key local and national races in the United States having a significant effect on public policy that impacts people's daily lives, advertising in political campaigns has played a major role in how people become aware of candidates and their platforms. Political ads on social media in particular have grown exponentially.

Historically, prominent political advertising examples included direct mail, radio, TV, and print media like newspapers. Today, candidates and elected officials must have an online presence and social platforms like Facebook and Twitter are top priorities for outreach and communications.


How was the Use of Social Media Changed in Terms of Political Advertising?

Social media for political candidates has become expected. Its planned and dynamic elements provide an intimate forum to engage directly with potential voters on their terms, in their platform of choice whereas traditional political advertising methods are one-way communications.Blog_PoliticalandSocialMedia_NoTag

On social platforms, feedback on campaign ads is instantaneous, allowing candidates who are paying attention the opportunity to quickly adjust their messaging and strategy if the campaigns receive a lackluster response or low engagement. Social media activity can even affect public policy, with many crediting public outcry on Twitter for the rollout of free COVID tests. Social engagement has also affected the language and imagery used in campaigns as a result.



Challenges & Advantages of Political Ads on Social Media

Many websites have banned political advertising permanently or in cycles. Today, most social media platforms allow political ads but social media is not held to the same standards as broadcasting. Social media sites can choose to disallow certain political advertisements or even ban candidates from the platform, unlike TV and radio stations that must provide airtime regardless of whether they agree with a candidate's party or message.

While promoting social posts costs money, opening a social media account and effectively using it is free. Established insiders and grassroots candidates have used social media to spread their messages, solicit donations, find volunteers, and get constituents registered to vote.

However, microtargeting can be a challenge. Online engagement may not translate to eligible voter turnout, so ad campaigns must attract users who live in the candidate's district rather than support a specific policy. Privacy regulations concerning user data compound the challenge and finding enough potential eligible voters who are online.



Reaching Voters Through Cross-Channel

Highly targeted print media, streaming audio, and other cross-channel strategies should be used for both national and local campaigns to reinforce messaging, add more touchpoints, and enhance social strategies.

  • MNI's unique political campaign products like VoterMatch and Omnipoint: Our products access data providers to see where successful political ads are, and when they were run. VoterMatch helps to provide more data and drive performance by tapping into over 200+ data providers with one powerful tool. MNI’s Omnipoint System can determine where and what to buy to help advertisers maximize their exposure in local markets while conserving their budget.
  • CRM Targeting: Programmatic and hyper-local targeting methods help candidates find eligible voters where they actually live, and also integrate with Facebook and Google ads.
  • OTT Advertising: Over-the-top (OTT) advertising is a highly effective way for candidates to connect with voters, particularly as more people have moved away from traditional cable in favor of online streaming. OTT ads are delivered through devices such as computers, tablets, Smart TVs, and through services like Netflix, Hulu, and more. Politicians can also hyper-target and segment their reach on OTT platforms using first-party data, resulting in ads that drive results.
  • Streaming Advertising: Digital audio ads on podcasts and other streaming services is the modern equivalent of radio advertising. As voters' media consumption habits shift, political advertising must follow suit.
  • Magazine and Print: While digital ads have become a powerful force in political advertising, millions of voters still trust print media like magazines. This is especially crucial for local targeting, like electoral districts. Magazine ads can help address current issues, remind voters about elections, and deliver powerful messaging to users who have developed a connection to their favorite magazines and have come to enjoy the information inside.

MNI worked on 113 unique political campaigns spanning 71 candidates: 80% of our candidates won their races.

As digital and hybrid media strategies become integral to successful voter outreach efforts, your communications staff needs proper support from experienced political advertising professionals. Contact MNI today to request more information on our political advertising services.

About the Author

@Janine Pollack is the Integrated Marketing Director, and self-appointed Storyteller in Chief at MNI Targeted Media. She leads the brand’s commitment to generating content that informs and inspires. Her scope of work includes strategy and development for Fortune Knowledge Group’s thought leadership programs and launching Fortune’s The Most Powerful Woman podcast. She is proud to have partnered with The Hebrew University on the inaugural Nexus: Israel program, featuring worldwide luminaries. Janine has also written lifetime achievements for Sports Business Journal. She earned her masters from the Northwestern University Medill School of Journalism and B.A. from The American University in Washington D.C.