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2018 candidates and interest groups spent big on Facebook ads

(WPDE)

Online advertising is like the stock market of the internet. Pay a certain amount to gain access to a specific group of eyeballs.

For politicians and interest groups, those eyeballs can translate into votes, and in turn, big differences in success or failure of prized initiatives.

According to data compiled by New York University, some political organizations spent millions of dollars promoting their interests to users of the social media site.

In South Carolina, some of the biggest spenders were the two candidates for governor.

The report shows that democratic candidate James Smith's campaign spent more than $90,000 in advertisements, and $35,000 solely in the last week of the race.

He was outspent by incumbent Henry McMaster, whose campaign forked over $112,000, although only $12,000 in the final few days.

South Carolinians were outspent by both their northern and southern neighbors.

Dan McCready's campaign, which was attempting to win over a district representing Robeson and Scotland counties, spent $163,000, although his opponent Mark Harris only gave the site $3,800, the report shows.

Georgia gubernatorial candidate Brian Kemp spent nearly $330,000, much less than opponent Stacy Abrams' $818,000.

Those numbers all pale in comparison to spending by some national groups. The highlights include:

  • President Donald Trump's Super PAC: $3,842,553
  • Texas Senate candidate Beto O'Rourke: $7,141,197
  • National Republican Congressional Committee: $2,181,490
  • Democrats: $1,082,458
  • Ben & Jerry's: $550,038
  • NC Conservation Network: $240,414
  • Opposition to California's Proposition 8, the state's most expensive ballot question: $1,504,618
  • Planned Parenthood: $1,369,269

The co-owners of SoarSocial in Myrtle Beach, a company that manages social media campaigns for political candidates and businesses, said bigger budgets aren't as important as how effectively a campaign uses their money.

"Ten thousand dollars can go a very, very long way, or you can fall short," Brandon Kovalick said, explaining that he micromanages which audiences his ads target and narrows a campaign's focus over time.

He and business partner Taylor Jonathan said they noticed a massive change from the 2016 election, and Facebook now requires several months of paperwork and identity confirmation before someone gets cleared to run a political ad.

They said it goes as far as advertisements for books that are political in nature.

Jonathan predicted the pattern of spending dizzying amounts of money on social media advertisements would continue in 2020, thanks to the habits of younger voters.

"They want their voices heard, and they're making them heard," he said. "Those people are targeted more and more on social media."

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