- Facebook advertising has emerged as one of the key parts of modern political campaigning, including for Australian state elections.
- New disclosures from Facebook reveals how advertising strategies vary from state-to-state and even party-to-party.
- While use varies across all states, each state’s major parties poured tens of thousands of dollars into Facebook advertising for the three state elections held in 2020.
- Visit Business Insider Australia’s homepage for more stories.
It used to be that electoral success depended on having a strong ground game. But increasingly, a campaign’s presence in digital battlegrounds like Facebook and Google is a key part of reaching and persuading voters.
Since the 2008 U.S. election, online political advertising has exploded in popularity as people spend more of their time online.
Digital advertising offers campaigns new and more sophisticated ways to reach people, including micro-targeting capabilities, rapid turnaround and the A/B testing.
And despite their unpopularity, online political advertising has become a part of campaigning in Australia too.
In this year’s state elections, residents of the Northern Territory, Queensland and the Australian Capital Territory were all bombarded with online messages from candidates, some paid and some earned through organic social media posts.
But with Facebook’s expanded compulsory political advertising disclosure launched in Australia in August, there’s more information available than ever before about the online advertising habits of political parties in Australia.
First rolled out in the U.S. and other countries in 2018, ads about social issues, elections or politics targeted at Australian Facebook users must now be authorised by an Australian who’s identity is verified by Facebook.
There’s also information about the reach of the post, which demographics are targeted and how much money was spent.
And by looking at this information, it reveals information about the electoral strategies of different campaigns in those jurisdictions.
Looking at the total figures spent between when data was first recorded on August 5 to October 13, Queensland had the most political advertising with $756,290 spent by 1219 different Facebook Pages during that period.
The ACT saw ads worth $227,365 posted by 357 Pages, followed by $112,536 of ads from 356 Pages in the NT.
But broken down by population, it’s the ACT that’s seeing the most spend per person with $0.53 spent on Facebook ads per capita, compared with $0.46c per person in the NT and just $0.15 in Queensland.
With an election just over two weeks away in Queensland, the state’s campaigns are focusing their Facebook ads primarily on promoting their party Pages.
The party of the government, the Queensland Labor Party, has spent the most. Between the party’s Facebook Page and the Labor politican Jackie Trad’s page, $55,069 has been spent on Facebook ads during this period.
Behind them is Clive Palmer’s United Australian Party ($46,414), Pauline Hanson’s One Nation ($28,204), the Liberal National Party ($26,050) and then the Greens ($16,027).
Compare this to Facebook ads in the lead up to tomorrow’s ACT election, where the Opposition is significantly outspending the party of government, and they’re focusing on promoting individual candidates, too.
Canberra Liberals have led the pack in spending with $40,704 spent on Facebook ads during the period for the Page alone, plus $23,391 for individual candidates Alistair Coe, Rattesh Gumber and Jeremy Hanson.
After them, ACT Labor has spent $12,728 on Facebook ads, and just $4301 for the ACT Greens.
In the Northern Territory, only the final two-and-a-half weeks of campaigning were captured in the data. But what this tells us is that the defending Labor Government significantly outspent all its competition before being returned to office.
The Labor Party spent mostly on its primary party Page with $22,417 spent on Facebook ads, while also spending $2,634 on the Page of candidate Mark Turner, and $2,534 on its party leader, Michael Gunner.
Whereas its main competition, the Country Liberal Party, spent $9,683 in total, but spread it around across the party’s Page ($4,521), Tracey Hayes’ Page ($2,665) and Lia Finocchario ($2,497). And the NT Greens spent just $1966.
While Facebook remains just one part of an electoral strategy, the data shows there’s still a variety of approaches (and spending) on campaigning using advertising on the social network.
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