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How can you win an election with Facebook ads?

Published: February 26, 2014

Author: Chad Wittman

There are endless ways of approaching a political campaign with Facebook ads. I’m going to outline how we used Facebook ads in a small local election.
Our goal was to elect an up-and-coming politician in his hometown. The incumbent had been in office for many years and was well connected within the community. We wanted to raise awareness for people who didn’t usually vote. We felt that any additional votes garnered through Facebook would be enough to tip the scales.

Step 1: Set up website

-Information explaining candidate
-Email capture form
-Drop cookies for retargeting

Setting up a website is an obvious step, but we primarily wanted the site for email captures and a retargeting opportunity. If we get an email, we can utilize email marketing as well as retarget ads via Facebook. With cookies now on their computer, we can retarget them throughout the web as well. Having a site set up to capture emails allowed us to double- or even triple-“dip” our budget.
To get even more thorough, we broke each individual stance into its own separate page on the site. This way we can drop issue-specific cookies on the user’s browsing session. For example, if a candidate running for Mayor has a stance on the firefighters’ union, this would be a separate page on the site. Through a retargeting tool, we assigned a specific cookie to visitors who viewed our candidates stance on the firefighters’ union. This will be utilized during step 5.

Step 2: Create custom audiences on Facebook

-Use existing emails
-Use existing cookies for retargeting

 Custom audiences will enable us to advertise messages to people who’ve already expressed interest in our candidate. This ad campaign will be created around reemphasizing campaign points or providing more detailed information for rallies, etc. This segment will be smaller than our expected group, but much more focused.

Step 3: Define an “unexposed but familiar” audience

-Former classmates

-Micro-target same-year graduates


-Micro-target same undergraduate emphasis

-Members of same groups (volunteering, associations, clubs, etc.)

We want to let people support someone in their “in-group” that they have an indirect relationship with. This is an important human psychological condition (for more information: research in-group favoritism). We aim to take advantage of this by creating connections between the candidate and new, unexposed voters. We crafted ads around each touchpoint with a custom message for each. We only targeted potentially eligible voters (for our case, people who live in-county).
An example to classmates would be: “Did you know John Doe is running for Mayor?”;
For volunteers at United Way: “United Way volunteer John Doe is running for Mayor on Jan 1st.”
The key with these creatives is that we’re trying add our candidate to this “unknown but familiar” person’s in-group. Only then do we have a shot at changing their behavior to vote for our candidate.

Step 4: Use ads to drive traffic back to the site

-Begin retargeting this new traffic
-Grow base

Now that we have Facebook ads driving new traffic to the site, this will begin to grow our retargeting efforts. This is how we begin to double- or triple-“dip” on our ad budget. We’re advertising to people who we know have interest in our candidate.

Step 5: Campaign Day Awareness

-Run ads heavily the week prior
-Increase ad spend day before
-Increase ad spend on day of

With all of these ads, we also ran complementary “your nearest poll information” ads to help guide voters to the nearest polls. We increased the distribution of these ads as we approached Election Day. This could also be supplemented by building a tool on your webpage to show potential voters their nearest polling booth.


This is just one of many ways to run a small local campaign on Facebook. Ads can be varied, and touch different social networks as you begin to build a campaign. Good luck!

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