Facebook, which has specialized in highly targeted advertising for years, is trying something new: letting candidates deliberately target people who post a lot about politics. This week, the social media company is rolling out a new feature that lets campaigns directly target ads at people deemed “political influencers” on both sides of the ideological spectrum.
According to Wired’s Issie Lapowsky, Facebook classifies “political influencers” as people who click on political ads, like lots of politics-themed pages, and share content from political groups. The goal is to target political obsessives on both sides of the political spectrum on Facebook in the hope that they post about specific candidates or causes.
And while it may seem like a waste of time to go after Facebook users who already align themselves with a particular campaign or ideology, Facebook’s VP of monetization product marketing Matt Idema tells Wired those people play an important role in the social network’s ecosystem: word of mouth. They can help spread the word about candidates to Facebook friends who may still be undecided, as well as introduce new issues to their networks.
Convincing politicians and lobbying groups to reach voters through Facebook and affiliated services such as WhatsApp and Instagram has been a long-time goal for the company. In 2013, Instagram hired a political outreach manager to essentially evangelize for the service on Capitol Hill. And campaigns already have a suite of Facebook tools at their fingertips in addition to the new launch. Facebook conducts ongoing outreach to politicians, publishes a newsletter dedicated to best practices for politicians on Facebook, and allows campaigns to upload contact information from their own supporter databases for targeted ads on the social network.
The feature will be available to all Facebook advertisers.
Update: This article has been updated to reflect the fact that the new feature is available to all Facebook advertisers.