Mitt Romney and the importance of knowing your Facebook friends

Mitt Romney and his faceook friendsWith the Presidential Election in its final week and given the huge conversation that has been taking place throughout social during the campaign, the problem of brands achieving real value from Facebook has been whirring in my mind.

As we know from our own experiences with our own clients, there’s a big issue with measurement. Many Facebook metrics are meaningless unless applied, with a full understanding of the context, to a tangible business goal. Without that, they lead to time-wasting ‘Like’-chasing and a failure to interrogate what engagement really means.

But this issue is in itself caused by an underlying failure to understand your audience. Companies have a dangerous tendency to see ‘Facebook’ as an audience rather than a place. They do not examine exactly who they are targeting, what those people want, and what the company in question would actually like them to do.

Categorising Facebook users in detail according to their passions, demographics, networks and behaviors is crucial if brands are both to identify who is influential, interested in and aligned to their purposes, and to develop the different content streams they need to keep those relationships relevant, meaningful and effective. We’ve seen Facebook help this process along with ‘Talking About This‘ metrics and page post targeting, but if brands are really going to make progress, they’ll need to do some work themselves.

That’s where Mitt Romney comes in.

Now, personally I find this very difficult to admit, but Romney has done something right. His team have created an app to identify which Facebook users they need to engage with in order to actually shift the dial at the polling booth. “Commit to Mitt” uses Facebook’s open graph data to unearth which friends live in influential states, or have a public history of interacting with Romney’s Facebook page. As a consequence, his digital team know who to spend time sending personalised direct messages to, while broadcast-style wall posts are reserved for less committed users who might provide a more generalised visibility boost.

Sure, this isn’t rocket science, but with a recent study suggesting that Facebook sharing can quadruple the power of political messages, it’s worth the investment. As a replacement to the usual scatter-gun engagement approach, it should save them considerable time and money in the long-term.

And the Romney team’s approach doesn’t just highlight the importance of segregating your Facebook audience, or of aiming to achieve specific actions outside button-clicking on the platform. It demonstrates the possibility of doing this when dealing with huge numbers. Matt Lira, a member of Romney’s digital team, reinforces this belief that the days of fuzzy KPIs are done: “All one needs to do is look at their own newsfeed to know that people want to talk about this election on Facebook; the question is, how can we make sure that activity is purposeful and effective at making a difference for the campaign.”

All of which begs the question: how well do you know your Facebook friends? How do you treat them differently?

Molly Flatt – Social Business Director at 1000heads.