Facebook is gearing up for the campaign season as the U.S. general elections are just a year away. On Wednesday, the company introduced a new ad product designed especially for political campaigns, using which the candidates can specifically target most politically active Facebook users.
Using Facebook users to spread campaign
Earlier this year, Facebook was granted a patent, and the new advertising system is partly based on that. Making use of this system, campaigns will be able to advertise web pages or news stories to the users who are more likely to share them. This way, the candidates can make effective use of influential users who will spread the campaign’s message further. A Facebook executive told Wired that people “are more likely to trust information that their friends share.”
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It is very different from the first political product that the company offered. Until now, political campaigns had been using traditional advertising tools to build up a presence on the social network. For example, the campaigns made use of tools such as interest targeting to find Facebook users who, based on their demographics, are likely to offer their support to a candidate.
The focus of Facebook’s efforts has traditionally been on getting support for a candidate or promoting a specific line of attack against an opponent. They still play a vital role in the modern campaign.
Facebook: perfect for campaigns
Facebook is a good medium to use to reach out to potential voters. Several candidates for the U.S. presidential race are turning to it, and the social network is happily offering its help. In July, a study by the Pew Research Center found that 61% of American Millennials (those aged 18-33) use Facebook to form their political news.
On Wednesday, during Facebook’s quarterly earnings call, COO Sheryl Sandberg said, “We’re excited about the election, because we think we give politicians and people a really compelling way to interact.”
The new product can fuel long-standing concerns about the role Facebook plays in shaping sentiment and conversations around the upcoming election. Nevertheless, Facebook’s new product is an impressive media tool, something that political candidates have never had access to. And it is expected to have a major impact on the next year of campaigning.