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Internal Report Highlights Why Trump Was Better at Facebook

Photo: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

It’s no secret that Facebook, which both candidates leaned heavily on to get their message out there, played a pivotal role in the 2016 presidential election. Facebook has, for the most part, stayed silent on the issue, save for a few executives tweeting about it. Much of it is still inconclusive — the discussion is a tangled mess of advertising metrics, buzzwords, and graphs. Maybe Trump got more bang for his buck, maybe Clinton did, who is to say.

When we last checked in, Antonio García Martínez, a key architect of Facebook’s ad system, was talking about how Facebook’s system gave Trump better organic reach because it rewarded controversial provocations. Campaign staffers from both sides chimed in to agree on this point, while Facebook executives pushed back, arguing that Clinton might have paid less to reach more voters. One of the key distinctions is in the types of ad campaign each side was running: direct response (e.g., “please donate”) or brand (“please like this person”).

An internal report viewed by Bloomberg notes that the Trump campaign was better at using Facebook, while also noting significantly different approaches.

The paper, obtained by Bloomberg and discussed here for the first time, describes in granular detail the difference between Trump’s campaign, which was focused on finding new donors, and Clinton’s campaign, which concentrated on ensuring Clinton had broad appeal. The data scientist says 84 percent of Trump’s budget asked people on Facebook to take an action, like donating, compared with 56 percent of Clinton’s.

So now we know: Trump was focused on a direct-response campaign, and Clinton was running a brand campaign. A direct-response campaign typically charges a higher CPM, the cost of showing the ad to 1,000 people, than a brand campaign. So while Clinton might have paid a lower CPM, Trump got more bang for his buck.

In addition, the Trump campaign more heavily utilized look-alike audiences (audiences that match the qualities of people they have on file). Bloomberg reports that “according to the paper, more than a quarter of Trump’s ad spending was tied to third-party data files on voters, and leveraged a Facebook tool that helped the campaign show ads to people who looked similar to the names on file. Clinton’s ads aimed for broader audiences, with only 4 percent of her Facebook spend on the lookalike tool.”

Internal Report Highlights Why Trump Was Better at Facebook