For budding and experienced politicians, Facebook provides a powerful way to connect and engage with supporters and voters.
For some political candidates, social media is a whole new world.
Below are some general tips to keep in mind as you use Facebook for your political campaign. We will also cover how you can authorize yourself for Facebook advertising.
How to create a campaign Facebook page
Before you create a Facebook page for a political candidate, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with how Facebook works. You can do this by creating a personal account and building a network of friends and acquaintances.
Then, when it comes time to start social accounts for your campaign, you can ask your personal connections to become your campaign’s first social media followers.
Any politician can create an official Facebook page. Facebook only allows you to create a page if you are the candidate or you are an authorized person on that politician’s staff. Facebook will remove fake pages. Users who create unauthorized pages may have their Facebook accounts disabled.
Unlike a personal profile, Facebook pages are visible to everyone on the Internet by default.
Here is how to create a Facebook page for a politician:
- Go to facebook.com and log in. Click the ‘create a page’ link.
- Click the “Community or Public Figure” template.
- In the next screen, name your page and type “Politician” or “Political Organization” under category
- Agree to the terms and get started.
After you create a campaign Facebook page, you’ll want to share it. Any person on Facebook can connect with your page by ‘liking’ it. In doing so, they will receive future updates about the Page in their News Feed and be able to comment and interact on the Page.
Name your page properly
When a page gets a certain number of “likes”, you can create a personalized URL for the page. You may want to just stick with ‘Vote for’ or ‘Elect’ with your name. Or just use your name. Avoid using the position your are running for in the page name or shortcut. The name may become invalid if you run for a different position in the future.
Update your page profile
In the About box and Settings tab, provide users with information about yourself and your campaign. Fill it out with as much detail as you can, including a link to your campaign website.
Once you have your basic Page set up, you can add additional tabs for video, discussion, photos and more.
Tip: Be sure to link back to your campaign website in the about section. This is a valuable link that will help tie together your online presence for search results.
Add a cover image and profile picture
Facebook lets you chose your own “cover photo” that is positioned at the top of your timeline. Your cover photo will be the first thing a user sees, so it should really make a good impression. Design your political Facebook cover to match the look and feel of your other promotional material.
The profile picture appears to the left of your cover image. You can use an existing photo that you uploaded to Facebook, or you may upload a new image. You may want to make your profile picture a candidate head shot or campaign logo.
Keep in mind that old profile pictures are archived and not replaced, so keep them professional.
Authorize your organization
Facebook (along with Twitter and Google) have implemented account verification measures to provide greater transparency and to curb outside influence over elections. Users who want to buy political ads must verify their mailing address. Generally, any ads that mention a political candidate, issue or cause must adhere to these rules.
It’s a broad definition. You may find your content getting flagged regardless of how political you think your ad may or may not be.
Ads that qualify will have a “paid for by” tag and will be placed in a public political ad archive. This information can be searched by anyone, including your opponents.
TIP: Verify your social media accounts early, as it may take time to get the postcard and final approval. The process can take a few weeks!
Below is a video describing the Facebook authorization process for political candidates and organizations:
Facebook strategy: Be authentic in your posts and updates
Voters value authenticity from politicians who use social media. Candidates should work to engage in a conversation with readers, rather than simply broadcasting campaign updates. It is, after all, a social network. Treat it like an on-going conversation. Read the comments, respond when necessary, and take note of what your supporters (and your dissidents) are saying. The candidate should be the one who posts, and the messages should be authentic. Don’t just post a string of press releases.
The goal is to get people to know, like and trust you. That won’t happen if every post sounds like it was vetted by the legal team of a PR firm.
TIP: Facebook updates can include updates from your campaign website, press releases, news articles, event reminders, photographs, personal observations and more.
If you are not sure what to do as far as posting updates or what to promote, follow examples of other popular candidates.
Budget to advertise and promote your campaign page
Don’t count on ‘Likes’ to make your posts go viral or attract new followers. Facebook today is fully ‘pay to play’, meaning that even your followers won’t see many of your posts unless you pay to promote them. If you want to reach others within the Facebook platform, you will need to spend money in advertising.
There are a number of different Facebook ad types, including video ads. You can target with granularity including behaviors, interests, demographics, age ranges and locations. You can run ongoing ads or promote specific posts. Facebook ads tend to be inexpensive. They cost a fraction of what other online marketing channels cost. It’s a cost-effective way to add credibility and amplify your message.
Use Facebook Insights to learn more about your audience
Check your page’s ‘Insights’ tab often. It provides a large amount of valuable data. In addition to tracking traffic, you can also see demographic data, the number of people reached through your posts, interactions with your posts and even insights such as the best times to post.
Create Groups for your supporters
Create groups help you quickly communicate, galvanize support, and encourage action on behalf of your cause. Campaigning on Facebook takes ongoing effort. It’s not a ‘set and forget’ promotional system.
Don’t be a jerk
Be yourself. Share your opinions, your personality, and even a bit of your daily life. Consider what voters might want to know or have an interest in. Post frequently, but not so often that you appear to have nothing better to do. Try not to be overly negative or encourage negative posts from others. Smearing opponents might make you points with your supporters, but it may turn off others who are unsure about you. Most voters will never meet you in person. If you are a jerk online, they will only assume that you are a jerk in real life.
Facebook has a number of apps that you can add to your page to enhance its functionality. Even a basic page can enhance a campaign and serve as a tool to help you communicate and spread your message.
Don’t just rely on Facebook
Social media is an important online component for political campaigns. However, a social networking profile is not a substitute for a real home on the web. Many people will not contribute through Facebook or a social media profile.
And not everyone is on social media, either. If you just cater to a social media audience, you are ignoring a large voting block.
A campaign website helps create a hub for your online presence. It is accessible to everyone and can provide a more trusted central location that you a have complete control over.
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