Winning the Internet

Facebook adds “ethnic” tab for ad-buying

After a great run, the Winning the Internet blog has been retired. However, you can still keep in touch with New Media Mentors here.

The folks over at Colorlines have flagged a new innovation on Facebook’s ad platform that could prove to be quite useful for organizing. For the first time there’s a new field that allows you to target someone’s ethnicity. Currently the only option is Hispanic, but others will likely be added over time. It was possible to work around this in the past as the article describes:

In the past ad buyers targeting Latinos had to play a guessing game using a combination of zip codes, Census data and designated market areas (DMAs) with a high concentration of Latinos to deliver the ads. They have also targeted users who have ‘liked’ Facebook pages of Latino-focused brands such as Univision, Telemundo, and CNN en Español.

To access this new feature you just need to create an ad and then under the “Interests” category switch to “broad targeting” instead of “precise targeting.” Then you’ll see a selection box as show below with a new “ethnicity” section. Select “Hispanic” and then create the rest of your ad. In my example I had selected “California” and “18 to 25” under age, showing there are 825K people you could reach with something like a voter registration message in California alone. Click the image for a bigger view.

This is likely to be quite lucrative for Facebook and very helpful for organizers. One of the key demographics in the Presidential race will be Latinos. The candidate that’s able to shift it more in their favor gains quite an advantage in a number of key states. The Presidential campaigns definitely have much more sophisticated strategies in place already, but this adds a tool to their arsenal for much more precise targeting.

Another electoral application is around voter registration. A few states are now adopting online voter registration. It’s not created equally across all states, but for the ones that truly process it all electronically this represents a great opportunity. You’d have the ability to link directly to a voter registration form and target groups you’re trying to register. I would guess this would really lift registration rates for younger people in particular.

For organizers working around causes it’s actually a much bigger deal. Unless an organization specializes in outreach to this community, like many of the organizations working on immigration, then it’s likely they don’t have targeted messages for their issue that can be easily delivered. But even if an organization does specialize in outreach to a specific ethnic community, it’s still very powerful to be able to reach those people, and only those people, when an issue arises.

We don’t have anything immediately on the horizon that would provide a useful test of this new functionality, but if you use it for your next campaign we’d be very interested to hear about the results.


About Raven Brooks

Executive director of Netroots Foundation and Netroots Nation.

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