Imagine for a moment a politician wanted to get a message out online to their audience and they did not (gasp) use Facebook. How much would it cost to get the same reach through ordinary online advertising?
It’s a big question as Facebook reduces the power of organic reach, meaning posters need to pay if they want their thoughts seen by more people than Grandma and two friends from primary school.
So should politicians direct scarce campaign funds into Facebook ads or focus on some other platform?
This is where an interesting metric called ‘Ad Value’ kicks in. It estimates how much it would cost you to place a digital ad elsewhere with the same reach as you get in posting to your Facebook followers. [Marketing wonks can read more about how this is calculated below.]
A look at the big parties on Facebook shows WA Labor the clear winner, with its ad value almost twice that of the Greens, who pip the Liberals on this metric.
WA Labor: $25,000
WA Greens: $12,400
The Nationals WA: $2200
Shooters, Fishers and Farmers: $1300.
In other words, one post by Labor has twice the advertising return on investment of a post by the Liberals or Greens, and more than 10 times the advertising ROI of the Nationals or Shooters, Farmers and Fishers.
Mark McGowan: $8100
Colin Barnett: $5900
Brendon Grylls: $4600
Lynn MacLaren: $3450
Albert Jacob: $2600
You would pay more than $8000 for a premium online ad that is as effective as a post by Mark McGowan. That’s a lot, but it isn’t as much as you would expect, given the size of his Facebook following.
It’s become clear by now in the campaign that the parties are running very different Facebook strategies on their pages.
The WA Liberal Party has invested a lot of time, effort and probably money into Premier Colin Barnett’s Facebook page. It’s getting average weekly growth of around 8.5% which is massive.
We have spoken before on Social Stars about the engagement drive taking place over on Mr Barnett’s page and this is one of those areas it pays off.
Yes, he still has only 2270 fans to Mark McGowan’s 11,863 but his fans are significantly more engaged.
In contrast, the Liberals WA page has grown just 0.9% in the past week. Engagement is very low. It only posts twice a day.
Labor is dividing its posts, and presumably effort, more evenly between the party page and that of Mr McGowan. It is also leading the activity taking place on Twitter so the party is not getting the bang for the buck it should do with his large Facebook following.
And Mr McGowan’s Facebook feed is — dare we say it — under performing. He posts a lot of pictures, but they get fewer shares, clicks or reactions than when he puts up a video or an article link, which really get his followers talking.
The interesting candidate here is The Nationals’ leader Brendan Grylls.
Back before the campaign started, his ad value was just $1850. It’s now more than twice that, thanks to an engaged audience, average weekly growth of 5% and some of the highest engagement of any sitting politician.
In an age where every advertising dollar counts, a bigger ad value means more impact for less, and it indicates which political leaders could be the best to drive out a message for maximum coverage. It also helps put a comparative value on your advertising activity.
You can track digital and Facebook ads more easily than traditional advertising. You can count click-throughs, shares, likes and conversions (such as getting someone to sign up to a campaign).
But many ads get no eyeballs at all. One study using eye tracking technology found only 9% of online ads were viewed for more than a second, compared to 40% of print ads, meaning it is worth drilling into the return you get for your platform of choice.
Ad value is calculated by taking the estimated post reach of the person posting and the price you would pay for online advertising to a thousand people (known as CPM or Cost Per Mille or thousand).
We use figures based on $17 CPM — which falls between the cost of premium display advertising and video advertising. Facebook CPMs are much lower, though as competition for advertising space grows, they are beginning to rise.
To calculate the reach on a different CPM, you can divide the ad values above by 17. Multiply them again by whatever the alternative platform costs (such as $3 CPM for mobile advertising, $11 for promoted tweets, or $44 for a medium ad on Thewest.com.au.)