Friends with benefits: how some faces can amplify a Facebook ad
Can a few friends move an election?
Yes, according to a recent study by James Fowler of the University of California, San Diego. During the Congressional Election of 2010, Fowler’s study split 61 million Facebook users into three groups: 98% saw an ad saying “I voted” along with pictures of friends who had clicked the “I Voted” button, 1% saw the ad with no pictures of friends, and the final 1% weren’t shown the ad at all.
20% of those who saw pictures of friends responded to the ad, compared to 18% of the “friendless” users who responded. The study also discovered that the first group was 0.39% more likely to vote than the others.
Not much, say you? In total, out of 61 million users to see the ad, approximately 238,000 extra votes were cast, estimates Fowler. Considering Florida, North Carolina, and Ohio (swing states in 2008) were all won by a margin of less than 300,000 votes, that number could mean the difference between winning and losing a Presidential election.
The real-world impact is undeniable, and according to NPR’s Shankar Vedantam, campaigns are already using followers and subscribers to impact the 2012 elections:
“…[E]very time you get a message on Facebook from the Obama or Romney campaigns, or every time you get a tweet from them, saying please like this message or please retweet this, what they’re doing is taking advantage of the fact that when you amplify a message from the campaign, it’s much more effective than the campaign sending out messages directly.”
Maybe General Motors, which caused a stir back in May by pulling its entire Facebook ad budget due to a “lack of impact on consumers,” should take this as a friendly hint to reconsider.
Photo by Flickr user Justin Grimes