Is Facebook Helping Presidential Campaigns Get Out The Vote?

Unless you have your head in the sand, you know that Election Day is right around the corner -- Nov. 6 to be exact. And as we close in on the end of what's been dubbed the first social election, Facebook continues to prove that it's more than just a place to tag friends in photos or share updates about family. The social network is a tool used in the presidential campaigns' get out the vote efforts, known as GOTV to politicos.

Unless you have your head in the sand, you know that Election Day is right around the corner — Nov. 6 to be exact. And as we close in on the end of what’s been dubbed the first social election, Facebook continues to prove that it’s more than just a place to tag friends in photos or share updates about family. The social network is a tool used in the presidential campaigns’ get out the vote efforts, known as GOTV to politicos.

It’s easy to understand why. A study in Nature released last month reveals that a single Facebook message increased turnout by 340,000 votes in the 2010 midterms. Research by the Pew Research Center reveals that Facebook is influential in persuading friends to vote.

In the closing days of the 2012 election, as campaigns turn from debate prep to GOTV, the candidates are urging voters to use social media to check voter-registration deadlines, polling-place locations, and ballot issues.

In fact, the campaign of President Barack Obama, and then the Mitt Romney team, released Facebook applications to aid in the effort to get their supporters to the polls. And there are myriad apps by third parties that are aiming to do the same.

Despite the flurry of recent activity, no one really knows how effective Facebook will be in turning out the vote. We may never know, since it’s nearly impossible to trace a vote back to a canvassing event, phone call, or Facebook post.

But we can check out the type of Facebook content the campaigns are using for GOTV, like highly visual posts and memes that can be easily shared, liked, and commented on among friends. And, like any other brand, we can bet that the digital teams at the respective campaigns bow to the EdgeRank algorithm gods when crafting their posts.

Rebecca Heisler, social media director for the Romney campaign, told AllFacebook:

We’re very excited. We’ve grown exponentially since May. We have a lot of people in these states. It’s a great opportunity to reach people every day.

Heisler said targeting voters on Facebook is one of the secrets to the campaign’s success, adding, “Overwhelmingly, targeting is done by state and city.” On average, the campaign makes 50 state posts per day through Facebook and the Romney campaign website.

For example, the campaign promotes events for turnout purposes, and it is currently pushing early voting in those states. It also targets Facebook posts with videos based on the campaign’s media ad buys.

Heisler said the campaign is willing to “mix up” its content to see what spurs engagement, even in the final days of the race.

Posts that contrast between the plans of Romney and Obama are the type of content that gets people to engage on Facebook, Heisler added. The debates are another example. And the meme using the “Friday Night Lights” slogan “blew up” on Facebook.

Heisler said the campaign is also enjoying the success of Paul Ryan’s Facebook page. With 5 million likes, “there’s no reason not to leverage that page more than other pages” to share content.

A senior digital strategist for the campaign added that Romney’s social content is driven by enthusiasm from the public, great events, and great ads — a “holistic circle” of content that has paid dividends. That level of social media integration, he believes, is unprecedented for Republicans.

Coming off of the primaries, team Romney had to build its infrastructure as it was using social media, he added. The resulting data-driven approach has had a meaningful payoff, and he pointed to the “talking about” figures for each of the vice presidential candidates as proof.