MarketingPolitics & AdvocacyTim Pawlenty Tests Facebook Sponsored Stories

Tim Pawlenty Tests Facebook Sponsored Stories

Ads ensure candidate posts are shown to likers.

Republican Presidential hopeful Tim Pawlenty’s digital team is using new Facebook ads to ensure the candidate stays top-of-mind when supporters visit the site. Pawlenty announced his official candidacy on Sunday, and his digital ad team has been using Facebook Sponsored Stories ads since to ensure related news surfaces when his likers are on Facebook.

Page Post ads, one of a few variations of the Sponsored Stories units, automatically display the latest post made to a page. So, in the case of Pawlenty, a former Minnesota Governor, the ads pull in the latest status update made on the candidate’s page, and dynamically create ads featuring the post in copy. The ads entice users to hit “like,” which in turn notifies their friends of the liking action within their news feeds.

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“Anything we post on Tim Pawlenty’s page shows up as an ad,” said Mindy Finn, partner at Engage, the agency handling digital ads for Pawlenty for President.

Other units called “Like Stories” alert friends that someone has liked a post. “Page Post Like” ads show friends when someone likes a post on a page.

Engage has been optimizing the campaign throughout the week, and is working with the Facebook advertising team to test newer formats. “Facebook has been much more aggressive recently in pitching their ad products to the political market”” said Finn.

As Facebook beefs up its outreach to political advertisers and on Capitol Hill, it’s not surprising to see candidates like Pawlenty take advantage in order to test and experiment early on in the election cycle.

“One of the interesting and challenging aspects of digital advertising…particularly for politics [is] you’re experimenting while you’re implementing. There are new options all the time,” said Finn.

Some may wonder what the benefit is of paying to have a post displayed to people who already like a brand or candidate. However, as Facebook users like more and more pages, and as Facebook’s news feed algorithm evolves, social media marketers are realizing the need to run ads to make sure people see their posts.

“A lot of times the really engaged people like a lot of pages,” said Finn. Not only do the Sponsored Stories ads give Pawlenty’s message prominent placement alongside a sea of news feed posts, when supporters like the ad, that action becomes a part of their friends’ news feeds.

“It’s not surprising the engagement rate for the Sponsored Story ads are higher because in general it’s going to be people who are already engaged,” Finn said. “It’s a relatively inexpensive way to get a story to penetrate on Facebook.” Engage is measuring the effort based on engagement rates and actions.

“Everybody is trying to get to that holy grail question of what’s the value of a Facebook like…. Even with these advertisements you don’t quite get there,” she said, alluding to a platform provided by Engage that allows clients to determine what percentage of Facebook likers sign a petition, link to a contribution form, or take other actions.

The Pawlenty campaign was especially focused this week on his official candidacy announcement and subsequent related events and appearances, including a Facebook Townhall. The Sponsored Stories units “also seem suited to major news events,” said Finn. They “gave us an opportunity to constantly be advertising the current happenings related to that announcement,” said Finn.

The campaign also ran event ads, allowing people to RSVP to the Townhall. “Those definitely helped drive up event attendees,” she added.

In addition to Facebook ads, Pawlenty for President is running Google AdWords and YouTube overlay ads. One Google search ad from Pawlenty suggests people “join” the campaign “Because the truth is America is in serious trouble.”

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