In this week’s round-up of Facebook election advertising we take a look at politicians’ Facebook advertisement spending

The National Party has spent almost $30,000 getting people to ‘like’ Judith Collins’ Facebook page.

Since July her Facebook page has gained roughly 20,000 new likes, at a potential cost of $1.50 each if they were all gained from the advertisements. Her page is the only politician’s page with significant funds spent on it.

Most parties are devoting spending to promote their party page and are spending nothing, or a modest amount, on individual politicians.

“Essentially, National’s paying for likes, rather than promoting policy on Judith Collins’ page,” said Tim Dorrian, co-founder of Aro Digital, a digital media company that has been tracking party and politician activities on social media.

Collins now has 56,235 people who like her Facebook page and 58,725 followers. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who has not spent any money on Facebook advertising for her page, has 1.7 million followers and 1.4 million likes. 

Some of the advertisements encouraging people to like Judith Collins’ Facebook page. Source: Facebook Ad Library

Dorrian said over a quarter of money spent by the National Party on Facebook has been devoted to Collins’ page and ads that encourage people to “Like my page to stay up to date”.

“We’ve seen nearly $91k spent by National since the 14th of July. With $28.8k spent on Judith Collins’ Facebook page.”

He said generally he doesn’t advise people to advertise seeking likes as people who ‘like’ pages aren’t always the type of people who then engage with content of pages. Facebook’s algorithm determines what page posts are shown to users based on a number of factors. Liking a page may increase the chances, but it’s thought other factors are important, such as how many other people have been engaging with content from that page. 

For follower numbers Collins’ sits in fourth place trailing Ardern, Winston Peters and Chloe Swarbrick. Ardern and Peters haven’t spent money on Facebook advertising for their pages. Swarbrick has spent around $100. 

This peek behind the scenes of how political parties are hoping to turn social media viewers into voters is possible because of a transparency tool launched by Facebook after ‘dark’ advertising became a feature of the 2016 US elections. This is where advertisements were micro-targeted to small groups of people.

Now all advertising can be seen in an ad library, as can basic demographic details of the people who saw them. This can give clues about who the party is trying to reach

A clear gender split in viewers of advertisements by parties was seen last week. Viewers of ACT, NZ First and National Party advertisements were more likely to be male. Labour Party advertisements were seen by more females while Greens advertisements were seen by a mix. 

The topics getting money put behind them

For the second week in a row the National Party has been the big spender on Facebook. Dorrian said the party has spent $13,629 in seven days with money spent promoting the voucher-like policy for newborns, where parents can select where to spend an allowance.

“National’s also jumped on the school improvement fiasco – putting a decent amount of focus on improving school messaging.”

Advertisements run by the National Party. There were several different advertisements related to school repairs, the above version is the one the most money was spent on. Source: Facebook Ad Library

The biggest growth in party page followers was seen by the New Zealand Public Party which gained more than 2000 new followers in one week, growing its followers by close to six percent. Labour had second highest number of new followers, with National third. 

Aro Digital is a Wellington-based digital marketing agency that provides data-driven solutions and results. In the lead-up to the 2020 Election, Aro Digital launched its Election Insights & Digital Transparency Report, in an effort to give all Kiwis information about how social media is being utilised in politics.

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