A Weakness of Facebook Likes & Ads for Political Campaigns

If you want to follow an organization, company, politician on Facebook, you have to “Like” them. That doesn’t necessarily mean that you like them, but you still have to like them if you’re interested in following what they’re posting to Facebook. This can get really odd at times.

For example, I was scrolling through my Facebook news feed when I encountered an ad from Diane Hofstede’s campaign for Minneapolis City Council. It’s not the most targeted ad in the world, considering that I’m not in her ward. But, it’s not entirely unexpected since her campaign may be running ads targeting Facebook users who live in Minneapolis who are friends with people who already like her campaign. That’s a pretty smart ad buy. But, going back to the whole “Like” issue, take a look at the ad I was served. Pay attention to the bottom of the ad where is says “Jacob Frey likes this”:

Diane Hofstede Ad on Facebook

Based on how that ad is presented, it seems likely that I was served that ad because a Facebook friend of mine, Jacob Frey (aka the DFL endorsed candidate in the Ward 3 city council race), happens to “Like” Diane Hofstede’s campaign on Facebook. While Frey does indeed “Like” Hofstede’s campaign on Facebook, I’m pretty certain that he likes his own campaign to oust Hofstede from her city council seat more than he likes her non-DFL-endorsed reelection campaign.

From there, I decided to look at where my friends stand on Facebook in this particular election. I found that five of my Facebook friends “Like” Hofstede’s campaign:

FB Friends that like Hofstede's Campaign

And 26 have “Liked” Frey’s campaign:

Jacob Frey Supporters on Facebook

It turns out that 4 of the 5 people who’ve “Liked” Hofstede’s campaign have also “liked” Frey’s campaign. One of those four is Frey. Another works for Frey’s campaign. Another one has been a regular attendee at Frey fundraisers.

So, it looks like at least 3 of the 4 Facebook friends of mine who’ve liked both campaigns are rock solid Jacob Frey supporters who could be mistakenly labeled as Hofstede campaign “Likers” based on Facebook’s poor choice of the term “Like” to describe what’s really a “follow” together with Facebook’s choice of using that action within ads to imply endorsement.

3 thoughts on “A Weakness of Facebook Likes & Ads for Political Campaigns”

  1. While I realize this wasn’t the ultimate point of the post, you can actually follow pages without liking them by adding them to interest lists. Click on the gear icon drop-down on the page to add to a list.

  2. @mk, you’ve pointed out an underutilized feature of Facebook that’s very appropriate for situations like this. Thanks for doing so.

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