Politicians have until October 17 to turn likes, shares, retweets and social media followers into a tick in the voting booth on election day. Newsroom is taking a weekly look at what they’re doing.
Facebook’s Ad Library opens a window into what advertisements political parties are running on Facebook and Instagram, how many people the advertisements reach and how much is being spent.
Launched as a way to increase transparency after advertising on Facebook was used to influence the outcome of the US 2016 elections, it allows New Zealanders to get a glimpse of all the messages parties are paying to promote.
This means a male Aucklander can see the National Party is targeting rural women with an advertisement proposing a $20 million fund to protect women from gynaecological cancer.
Who is spending what?
National is pouring more money into Facebook advertising than any other party – spending more than $48,000 since July 14. The Labour Party has spent just over $5000.
Aro Digital has been collating data on how the different parties are using the platform. Co-founder Tim Dorrian said the National Party’s strategy differed to other parties, with money also being spent on the most recent new leader and deputy leaders’ Facebook pages.
“The National Party has split its spend between the party page, and Judith’s [Collins] Facebook page almost evenly. With $21,803 on the party page, and $21,495 on Judith’s page. National has also spent $4,963 on ads from Gerry Brownlee’s page. National is one of the few parties taking this approach.”
Many of the National Party’s ads have a modest spend of $100 listed. Others stand out as having considerable money spent on them. Dorrian said National had spent almost $4,000 on an advertisement promoting their proposed border protection agency, which mentions “the Labour led government has repeatedly failed to secure our border” .
Rural women also appear to be a target the party is keen to reach. Around $3,500 has been spent on an ad promising $20 million to protect women from gynaecological cancer.
The ACT party has also courted the rural vote.
The party ranks third on overall spend but has placed significantly more advertisements than the other parties, clocking in with 894 advertisements. This is “more than all of the other political parties put together (514 ads)”.
Dorrian assumes this approach has been taken in order to test which ads work best with their audience. The best-performing advertisements may get more money spent on them.
The advertisement it has spent the most money on so far is one aimed at the rural voters suggesting ACT would represent farming voices and values in Parliament.
Dorrian said the comparatively, the Green Party had “put all its eggs into a couple of baskets”. Of its $41,426 Facebook advertising spend, three advertisements have dominated. One relates to tackling poverty, the other proposes to increase the student allowance and the third says The Green Party is “thinking ahead and taking action now for our people and planet”.
The fight for followers
The number of followers a party has gives an indication of how many people are seeing party messages posted on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter without the party paying to have the message seen. Labour, the Greens and National have substantially more followers than other political parties.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s follower numbers dwarf other politicians; however, there’s no way to easily tell how many followers are based in New Zealand.
For the second week in a row, Judith Collins has gained the biggest percentage of new followers compared to the week prior, adding nearly 3000. This may be influenced by the $21,495 spent on Facebook advertising on her page.
*Statistics for Marama Davidson and Billy Te Kahika were added last week, so follower growth cannot be calculated until another week of data is generated.
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.