Welcome to FWIW Virginia, where we analyze digital spending trends on both sides of the aisle in advance of the 2019 Virginia legislative elections. Each week, we look at whose digital spending is up, whose is down, and whose is non-existent across the Commonwealth.
For what it’s worth, some of it might surprise you.
There are 187 days until the general election in Virginia but only 40 until the primary. So, what are campaigns asking for at this stage in the game, and how are they using smart digital strategies to make both creative and traditional asks of their supporters? We take a look in this week’s edition of FWIW Virginia.
2019 by the numbers
We’re tracking digital investment by party committees, statehouse leadership and candidates in some of the top competitive state house and senate races in Virginia in advance of the 2019 state legislative elections. Here is how investment by Republicans and Democrats compare since the 2018 midterm elections.
Here is a list of top Virginia political spenders on Facebook the week of April 21-27.
Nineteen months ahead of his reelection and without any official opponents, Mark Warner is ramping up his digital spending – and seizing upon his Mueller moment to build his list and raise money. And FWIW, it looks like Warner is the only member of the Virginia Congressional delegation who has been running Facebook ads recently.
Deep Dive: It’s All in the Ask
Not all communication is equal, and as voters and activists get inundated with requests from both local and national campaigns to give their time and money, it’s important for campaigns to get creative with their asks. In the digital age, there are a lot of new ways people can show their support for a candidate. This week we took a look at how the Virginia campaigns have been asking for help.
Please “Like” Me
We noticed that a lot of campaigns in Virginia have run ads asking for Facebook page Likes. There are a few reasons for this. First, General Assembly campaigns don’t have big paid media budgets, and advertising campaigns to gain page likes are much cheaper than email acquisition – so it’s a smart strategy for a small buy.
Second, gaining a large page following helps validate future Facebook ads. When an ad pops up on the timeline, it shows the user their friends who like that page, which is believed to improve the level of engagement – see below for an example
Pledge to Give Me Your Email Address
Email fundraising is one of the easiest ways for campaigns to rake in small-dollar donations, but building an extensive list can be tricky and expensive. Ron Meyer is running for the Republican nomination in Senate District 13 and already has over 7,500 followers on Facebook. With an established social media presence, Meyer is one of only a few campaigns actually running email acquisition ads by asking for supporters to pledge to vote.
Knock Those Doors
Field wins elections, and it’s never too early to be out on the doors. But without an established team of field organizers, which most campaigns haven’t hired at this point, targeted digital ads can be an effective and efficient way to bring in volunteers to canvass. It’s the clearest example of how to leverage online communication to get offline action.
It’s Like A Yard Sign But For Your Facebook
People love putting a filter on their Facebook profile picture, and it especially took off in the political space during the 2016 elections. But Carolyn Weems, who is running for the Republican nomination in Senate District 7, might be the first Virginia General Assembly candidate to run paid ads asking supporters to add her campaign’s frame to their profile picture. It’s like a virtual yard sign that doesn’t cost you anything – and at least you won’t have supporters complaining that it was stolen.
Campaigns are increasingly using online communication to rally support and mobilize voters – even at the local level. General Assembly campaigns rarely have big digital budgets, but there are a lot of examples in Virginia of campaigns being creative with what they have.
If you (like us) want to do more to make sure Democrats take control of the Virginia House and Senate in 2019, reach out to us at [email protected] to learn more about what we’re planning for the 2019 state legislative elections.