Friday, February 17, 2012

Got Facebook, win election

Rapid City in South Dakota is a world away from politically savvy campaign headquarters in Washington or Chicago. Yet it is here, in a modest town of 70,000 people tucked away in the rural backwaters of America, that the potential power of Facebook to win elections can be seen most vividly.

Last June, Sam Kooiker decided to stand for mayor of the city. To many people that seemed the height of political folly – he was running against the two-term incumbent mayor, Alan Hanks, who was a household name in Rapid City and had vastly more money to spend on advertising.

Kooiker didn't have sufficient funds to launch a TV ad campaign, so instead he turned to a local company called Straightforward Interactive and asked them to devise a digital strategy.

The firm's Josh Barsch advised that the most effective approach would be to target Facebook users living in Rapidy City. Statistics suggested that most adult residents of the town were on Facebook, and the information about themselves that they offered up on their home pages – location, date of birth, gender, political affiliation, religion, interests etc – would allow the campaign to target its message directly to them.

Barsch and Kooiker identified more than 30 separate demographic groups of key voters in the town, serving each one with a customised web advert.