Welcome to FWIW, ACRONYM’s weekly newsletter breaking down digital strategy and investments across the political spectrum. Each week, we look at how campaigns are – or aren’t – leveraging smart digital strategies to drive narratives and win elections.
For what it’s worth, some of it might surprise you.
Smart political campaigns don’t just use digital platforms like Facebook for one-way fundraising communication – but also recognize their value as community building and supporter self-organizing tools. A few months ago, Facebook re-designed its mobile app to prioritize Facebook Groups, making the feature an even more important tool for campaign organizing. In this week’s FWIW we take a look at which campaigns have the most Facebook groups of grassroots supporters, and how those groups are organizing for or on behalf of the campaigns.
With their spots secured on the September debate stage, some of the leading Democratic candidates like Joe Biden, Cory Booker, and Andrew Yang have scaled back their Facebook + Google spending in the past week.
Fond farewells to Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and Rep. Seth Moulton, who both dropped out of the race this week…leaving us just 21 Democrats still in the running for President 🤷♂️.
Andrew Yang launched a new in-house digital team as his campaign hopes to harness the power of the #YangGang. In a press release, their campaign stated “Digital is no longer an arm of our campaign, it’s the driving force.” 🏻🏻
Here are the top political ad spenders on Facebook + Google from August 11 – 17:
At face value, the third highest spender on Facebook ads this week, “Honest Paper” doesn’t look familiar. But as it turns out, “Honest Paper” was yet another Facebook page operated by the pro-Trump propaganda outlet, The Epoch Times. 🤯 We helped initially expose The Epoch Times in FWIW back in April, and this week an NBC news investigation dug deeper into their spending and motivations. Then, last night, NBC reported that Facebook banned them from advertising on the platform. We’re happy to have played a small role in rooting out their dangerous misinformation from the platform.
Deep Dive: Facebook #SquadGoals
Facebook groups allow supporters to self-select into small communities where they meet like-minded supporters, hold events, and help the campaigns in their own ways. Especially in the early states, these online supporter hubs can be an invaluable tool for campaign organizers to connect with local volunteers on a regular basis.
Also, Facebook’s platform is putting an increased emphasis on prioritizing engagement with groups – more frequently filling users’ news feeds with group interactions – and recently revamped its mobile app to prominently feature a groups tab. So which campaigns are taking advantage of the feature? Before we take a look, here are the Facebook Groups with the most members in support of 2020 Democrats:
In terms of sheer volume, Bernie Sanders supporters are highly organized on Facebook into hundreds of groups around the world. That said, many of those groups could have been leftover from his 2016 run for President, giving him a multi-year head start on the competition.
While Warren, Biden, O’Rourke, and Buttigieg supporters have taken advantage of the feature, the campaigns of Steyer, Gillibrand, Booker, and Castro don’t even come close – and seem to have only a few smaller groups of grassroots supporters organized on the platform.
The #YangGang’s official “Basecamp”
While some groups seem to be just giant forums for supporters to spam eachother with news articles, the Yang campaign by far has the most sophisticated campaign-run Facebook group. “The Andrew Yang for President 2020 Basecamp” has over 36,000 members who are engaged by campaign staff several times a day. In addition to receiving campaign updates and news, members can complete “units” which are tasks like phone banking, tweeting out campaign messaging, or recruiting more members to join – and track their progress to goal.
This type of “gamification” isn’t new on campaigns – Barack Obama built an entire platform for volunteer engagement in 2008 – but the 2020 Democrats are just starting to ramp up their own organizing in that way.
Other campaigns are engaging their supporters in more informal ways. On-the-ground campaign organizers in small towns across the early states often have to get creative to find and engage their teams of super-volunteers. Facebook Groups provide a strong outlet for them to do just that.
Pete Buttigieg, Elizabeth Warren, Joe Biden, and Bernie Sanders’ supporters and staff alike have set up dozens of tiny local groups around the country that give their organizers a pool of potential volunteers to engage with. Groups like “Upstate SC for Warren” “Joe for New Hampshire” or “Iowans for Pete” give campaigns a direct pool of locals to tap into for event organizing and volunteer recruitment.
This week, a Pete Buttigieg organizer in Iowa even noticed a *handmade sign* to join a local pro-Pete Facebook group at a Davenport deli:
Many political campaign Facebook groups are created to cater towards specific supporters who share something in common. Groups like “Latinas for Beto” and “Students for Pete” exist to give specific constituency groups opportunities to meet and share their stories of why they support candidates. The Buttigieg campaign is currently using its Students for Pete group to specifically recruit campus volunteer leads for organizing:
That’s all for this week. But before you go, we have one more ask of you! Since Facebook Groups are such a way to share content and insights throughout the week, we thought we’d create one of our own. Click below to join the FWIW Facebook Group for exclusive updates on the digital race for the White House.