Facebook Ads for Political Campaigns

Facebook ads for political campaigns 2018

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How To Get Started

Running Facebook advertising in the run-up to an election is one of the most basic of campaign tactics but one that many campaigns still get horribly wrong. Here we are going to go over the how-to of getting your first FB campaign up and running.

First though, let’s take a look at why you might do this. The main reason for running an ad campaign is to get your message out there to your voters. For this, FB is still the best way of reaching people because it has the greatest reach among potential voters and it can be targeted very specifically by geography and voter demographics. The other reason we would always recommend FB as a starting point for social media ads is that it is really easy to use and, once you are set up you can push out ads very quickly in response to changing campaign issues.

What will you need?

  • Firstly, you will need a FB account and, ideally, a FB page and website for your campaign.

  • You will need a budget and a credit card. It is best to set yourself a monthly budget and do not go over this.

  • You will need some image resources, whether that is your campaign photo, a profile picture or some other images that you use. There are image size recommendations for FB ads, usually 1200X628 pixels, ie, a landscape type image.

Voter Targeting

Building the perfect audience

  • Targeting voters for election races are best done through geolocation. You can manage an ad so it only sends in the areas that you want it delivered, which can be your entire electoral district or part thereof.

  • You can filter the people it is sent to by demographics such as age, gender and so on.

  • Best of all, you can filter your audience by Interests, so you can send to people with a declared interest in, for example, conservative politics, or environmental issues and so on.

  • Taken all together, this type of targeting can get your message to the people who might vote for you and avoid those that won’t.

In setting up Facebook ads, an essential part of the process is the building of your Facebook Audiences. These are simple groups of Facebook users that you can create through a number of means. If you are in any doubt as to whether you should bother with Audiences you can stop thinking that now and understand that they are important for you to be successful with ads and they provide rigor to your ad-building process as a whole.

For campaigns, there are probably three sources for you in starting to build these audiences.

  • Your database of voters/citizens

  • Visitors to your website

  • Engagers of your FB properties, eg: Page, Ads, etc

Once you have built an audience from one of these sources you can then create a Lookalike audience that builds a much larger audience for you automatically. This Lookalike audience is similar to the core audience but widens the net of your advertising significantly.

Let’s go through an Audience set up and see what the steps are for you in setting up each of these types.

Step 1

On www.business.facebook.com go to the top left drop down bar and choose Audience. This brings you to your Audiences page. Here you can hit the blue Create Audience button. Choose Custom Audience from the dropdown.


Step 2

Customer File source: FB will now present you with the options for creating an audience. We will go through 3 of these.

Firstly, let’s look at Customer File. This allows you to import a file of contacts or cut and paste information about contact into FB. You can also import contacts from your Mailchimp account if you have one. FB will then read these and try to match that data with its database to find FB users. This might take about 30 minutes to process.

The information you will want to have in your files will be things like email address, name, phone number, city, and so on. There are handy guides to importing that pop up as you are going through the process, but rest assured it is a very simple importer and doesn’t require you to do anything other than hit the import button.

You will be asked, at this time, to give a name to the audience you are creating so try to be as clear as possible about who they are as you might be using this audience for quite a while.


Website visitors source: At this stage, if you have an FB pixel (ie: tracking code) installed on the pages of your website you can now choose this method to create an audience. This is, perhaps, one of the best ways to create an audience because it is constantly changing and it is made up of people who have shown an interest in you by visiting your site. It will allow you to retarget people with your message and ensure that they do not forget about you. If you need help in getting the FB pixel installed, go to the person that created your website.


Engagement on FB source: This is a great way of capturing people who have engaged with your FB presence, whether that is your FB page (a new and welcome feature), your ads or your canvass. It is similar to the website retargeting method and should yield better results for you as this is a ‘warm audience’. It is self-explanatory how to set it up and just requires a couple of clicks to get it going.

Step 3

Expand with lookalikes: Once you have named the audience and imported you will see it appear in your list of audiences and it will usually say, Populating, so you know it isn’t ready for use yet. When it is ready for use you can then create an ad campaign that delivers to that audience. If you want your ads to go to people that share similar characteristics to those in your audience then you can simply click the audience tickbox (as in the diagram) and choose to Create Lookalike from the drop-down menu. This will allow you to expand your audience reach. When creating a lookalike audience remember it is territory specific, eg, US, and you will also have the option to make the lookalike very broad or quite specific based on whether you choose Level 1 to Level 10.

Step 4

Figure out who you want to target: Have a plan of action with audiences. Try to map out what demographics you want to have custom audiences for in advance. Do not create audiences on a whim and forget who they are. Try to have, at least one retargeting audience.

Consider creating audiences based on the voter targeting you have already identified, that way you will have a way to reach out to those targets in advance of field operations.

Designing Your Ad, Step-By-Step

  • With your Facebook page set-up, you can go to Ads Manager and click the green Create Ad button in the top right-hand corner.

  • The first thing FB will ask you is what type of campaign you want to run and it will give you the choice of all its various options. We would recommend one of two options for your initial campaigns at least, either Promote your Page or Send People to a Destination Either on or off Facebook.

  • If you have a website you will probably want them to visit that or you might be happier with them being pushed to your FB page and liking it. Either way, you will want them to become aware of your campaign message and, ideally, be part of your broadcasting network subsequently, by liking your page or signing up for updates for example.

  • Now FB will ask you to define your audience. You can first target based on geography, from a country, state, city, postcode, address or congressional district.

  • You can choose age, gender, and language if you think this is relevant. You can also choose targets based on demographic elements and interests, for example, you can narrow your focus to specific job titles, employers, interests and so on. You can add in multiple demographics into one ad campaign until you are happy you have matched the profile of your voters accurately.


  • You will want to set your budget on this page also. We recommend setting it to Lifetime Budget rather than Daily Budget. This will allow you to send your ad at specific times of the day and you will also be able to set an end date so you don’t go over budget.

  • You will now be brought to the section where you insert the image and ad text. You will want to have a clear idea of the message you are trying to deliver and have distilled this down to a headline (3 words) and two short sentences explaining this. You can also have a Call-to-action button or text here in order to get potential voters to take an action to support you.


Click the Place Order button at the bottom and you should get your ad approved within a couple of hours.

Stopping or Pausing An Advertisement

Every FB ad must, at some point, come to an end, and here we want to take a look at when that should be shut off and why.


Firstly, let us just say how simple it is to cancel an ad run in FB. All you need to do is toggle your ad to Off. This then freezes your ad metrics in time, so you can come back and compare to a subsequent ad and gain some insight.

Why you might cancel a FB ad

There are any number of reasons why you might cancel an ad. You might run out of a budget, the ad may not be performing as you’d like, or you might just have a policy of running ads for a set period of time. If you continue to serve an ad to the same audience, then you can expect a gradual decrease in the efficiency of the ad over time. For this reason, we recommend you should be doing a full review of ad performance, at least on a weekly basis, so as to avoid wasting ad dollars.

Metrics To Look Out For

Performance metrics to keep an eye on with regard to ads are the CPM figure, which you should try to keep below $4, the number of clicks and CTR which you would expect to be over 1% at least, and, of course, the conversion rate (the metric by which you decide an ad visitor did the thing you wanted them to do, for example, Donated, Signed up for info, etc). The cost per acquisition CPA refers to the amount of money spent on an ad campaign divided by the number of conversions you had. If a CPA figure of, say, $50 is achieved, then you have to decide whether that conversion is worth the amount paid. Usually, you will have a target figure for the CPA in advance of the ad launching.

Learning From Ads

There are a lot of learnings that can come from a FB ad run and they all require you to be on top of the ad metrics as they come back, as well as setting the ads up to test assumptions. For example, I might want to test whether a certain message is hitting home with voter demographics, so I set up two ads with the same image and copy, but I send them to women and men separately. Then I track the key metrics for each campaign such as CTR, CPA and so on, to see which target group responds better. This is a very clear test, but you can also be testing content messaging and images from week to week and learn a lot about what hits home with your audience.

The huge advantage here is that your learnings will feed back into better ads, but also into better campaign messaging and understanding of voters. Never be downhearted by an ad campaign that doesn’t yield great results, there is gold in all those hills.

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