Study Counterpoint: Facebook Political Ads Effective When Used Correctly

By Jennifer Moire 

Not so fast! When used properly, political ads on Facebook are useful, says one public-affairs strategist in response to a study by a pair of academics that claims just the opposite.

We told you about the study by University of California, Berkeley graduate student David Broockman and Donald Green, a political science professor at Columbia University in New York, who concluded that Facebook ads don’t have much effect on name recognition or likeability based on an analysis of ads for a state legislative  candidate.

Bradley Portnoy, of strategic communications and public affairs firm Powell Tate — which, let’s face it, is in the business of buying Facebook ads for clients — lays out an opposing and convincing viewpoint in a blog post.

Portnoy emphasizes a theme we’ve heard from others, including Mitt Romney’s campaign: Engagement is key. It’s critical to choose the appropriate Facebook ad or social platform that builds a relationship with voters.

Facebook ads can’t be examined in a vacuum.  These ads have to be part of a larger digital strategy — promoting great content, such as a video, an image, or an interactive experience, Portnoy explains.

Portnoy also notes that the ads examined by Broockman and Green were the most basic that Facebook offers, and also the most ineffective, in his experience. Facebook’s newer offerings, such as page like ads and sponsored stories, are far more promising because they encourage interaction with pages’ content. Facebook also made recent changes that enable ads to appear directly in a page’s news feed, which are delivering better results, in the firm’s estimation.

There is also evidence that Facebook ads for members of Congress are effective in helping elected officials grow their Facebook page likes and ultimately increasing their engagement with constituents. According to iConstituent, an e-communications firm that works with congressional offices on social media strategy, Facebook ads generated a 900 percent increase in the number of people liking elected officials’ pages. Those results have a beneficial ripple effect when it comes posting content, such as mailers and newsletters, on Facebook.

Readers: Have you been influenced by political ads on Facebook?

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.