Welcome to FWIW, ACRONYM’s weekly newsletter breaking down digital strategy + investment in our elections. Each week, we look at how campaigns are – or aren’t – leveraging smart digital strategies to drive narratives and reach voters. For what it’s worth, some of it might surprise you.
Welcome back to FWIW! This week, we’re coming back to your inboxes with a very special look at next month’s critical Georgia U.S. Senate runoff elections – where the fate of the Senate, and to some extent, President-elect Biden’s agenda will be decided. We’ve got data, hot-takes, and TikToks to lay out who’s up and who’s down online in the Peach State.
But first… as we plan for 2021 and beyond, we’d love your thoughts on the future of this newsletter. What type(s) of content do you want to see in your inbox every Friday beyond relevant competitive digital ad spending reports? Let us know by filling out this very quick survey here!
IN THE NEWS
Yesterday, Google finally lifted their political ad ban for campaigns and organizations who want to use their platform, although they still have serious limits on campaigns’ ability to target voters, which have been in place since 2019. We hear Facebook may soon follow suit.
The double-overtime Senate elections featuring Jon Ossoff v. David Perdue and Raphael Warnock v. Kelly Loeffler are historic for a number of reasons – they will likely be the most expensive runoffs in the state’s history ($400 million and counting!), they’ll determine party control of the U.S. Senate (and the fate of President-Elect Biden’s Agenda), and they’re the only campaigns in recent times that have been at least temporarily blocked from advertising on Facebook and Google.
As the pandemic still rages on, the importance of these campaigns’ digital voter outreach strategies has only grown with each passing day. We’ll take a look at the campaigns’ organic social media tactics, search interest online, + more.
Organic reach + growth
When it comes to reaching voters online for Georgia’s Senate runoffs, Facebook’s continued ban on political ads means that unpaid means of reaching voters on social media have taken center stage. As FWIW readers know well, this potentially gives a huge advantage to Perdue, Loeffler, and the right-wing online disinformation machine that supports them because of the platforms’ algorithms’ preference for their insane content.
That doesn’t mean Ossoff and Warnock campaigns are sitting ducks – far from it. In fact, the Democratic campaigns have far larger audiences on key social media platforms than their GOP opponents. Ossoff’s rapidly growing TikTok following alone – which we’ll get to in a bit – is already almost as large as Perdue’s total online footprint on the major platforms:
(YouTube isn’t included in this chart because all the candidates’ followings there are nominal. There too though, Ossoff and Warnock have more than twice as many followers as Perdue and Loeffler).
Ossoff’s disproportionately large following on every major platform can almost certainly be attributed to the fact that he’s been on the scene since his political debut in the extremely dramatic and expensive special U.S. House election in early 2017. (#FlipThe6th) But, Ossoff + Warnock have also had the edge on social media audience growth as well, at least on Facebook.
According to CrowdTangle, the Democrats’ Facebook audience growth has far outpaced their Republican counterparts’. Notably, over the past three months, Warnock’s Facebook audience has grown by nearly ***700 percent***, while Loeffler’s has increased by 110% in the same time frame. Meanwhile, Perdue’s audience has hardly even grown at all. In the past 12 months, his FB following has only grown about 10 percent, while Ossoff’s has grown by more than 20 percent.
However, given the wide national attention on the runoffs, these audiences could skew more heavily toward national followers over Georgia residents – so these followings do not necessarily translate into a potential voter advantage.
Due to the increased scrutiny and outsized importance of these races, many Georgians are eagerly looking for answers on the four candidates. Google Trends reveals some interesting data on how Georgians’ scrutinizing their candidacies.
Among Georgians, Loeffler has the largest share of search interest of the four candidates, with the biggest search spike for both she and Warnock being last weekend’s contentious debate. Here are the most popular related searches for both candidates:
…and here’s the Google Trends data for the Ossoff-Perdue race:
Facebook and Google aren’t the only options
Of course, while Facebook and Google are typically the largest digital ad platforms for political campaigns, they are far from the only ones. Even though Google ads are back as of yesterday, the campaigns can also put money behind their messaging on audio streaming platforms like Spotify + Pandora, platforms like Hulu, programmatic ads, and of course, Snapchat. For the most part, it’s hard to know if and how campaigns are advertising on those platforms because they don’t provide any transparency – but Snapchat does.
Lo and behold, the Ossoff and Warnock campaigns combined have spent over $188,000 on the belowads since the general election, which is an enormous amount of money to spend on Snapchat ads. To put that into context, the Donald Trump campaign spent just over $116,000 on the platform all year.
Since November 3rd, the Warnock campaign has spent $104,193 on Snapchat, and Ossoff’s team has put $84,615 into the platform. Meanwhile, Loeffler and Perdue have spent $0.
It’s that time in the election cycle that many of you may be looking for your next big moves. We want to help do our part, so we’ll continue sharing opportunities from our friends + partners over the coming weeks. If you’re an organization or campaign and want to recruit via this newsletter, send us an email!