How to Successfully Target Ads on Facebook… Like Russia.

Blah blah blah Facebook Privacy blah blah blah Russia skewing the vote. Look, I’m not going to blab about the whole ordeal, this blog post is more about the Facebook advertising placed by Russian propaganda group Internet Research Agency (IRA). Recently the House Democrats released 3,500 Russia-linked Facebook Ads. And of course, as someone who does Facebook advertising on a regular basis, I was interested in seeing the ads and the targeting behind them. If you know me, you’ll know that I have a fascination of the sneaky ways to use social media, not saying that I condone the behavior, but it’s just interesting to me to know what others are up to in that regard.

Summary of Facebook Data Collected

As reported by the House Intelligence Committee Minority (source).

  • 3,393 advertisements purchased (a total 3,519 advertisements total were released after more were identified by the company);
  • More than 11.4 million American users exposed to those advertisements;
  • 470 IRA-created Facebook pages;
  • 80,000 pieces of organic content created by those pages; and
  • Exposure of organic content to more than 126 million Americans.

Whoa, that organic content reach doe.

Facebook Ads Placed by the IRA

Okay, now let’s look at a small sample of the actual Facebook Ads and the targeting behind them. Interestingly enough, they only used the desktop and mobile Newsfeed placements (no right column) and were able to obtain super affordable CPC.

Getting Cheap CPC on Facebook

They spent approximately $758.00 CDN on the ad resulting in 49,920 impressions and 4,799 ad clicks. That’s about $0.16 CDN per click! The targeting is fairly general if you look at what interests they used.

Using Memes for Facebook Advertising

I’m curious to know why the targeting that was included in the document said “None” for Ad Spend. I was like, maybe they have too much text on their photo? Silly Moscow, users can only have less than 20% text on a Facebook Ad image or it won’t reach as many people! But I tested it (see below) and the image text rating was only “Low”.

If you look at the screenshot of the Sponsored Post above , there’s quite a bit of engagement on it already, with 578 Reactions, 16 Comments and 35 shares.

Jumping In On Causes for “Successful” Facebook Ads

This is cray cray. They spent approximately $1105.00 CDN to get 201,428 impressions and 12,127 clicks. That’s about freaking $0.09 CDN per click. Taking a lot at the location targeting, it’s obvious to see that they were targeting States with larger black populations. I thought they would have included interests like Black Lives Matters, etc.

If you want to see more ads, you can do that here.

IRA Twitter Accounts

Also, interestingly enough, they also released a list of Twitter accounts associated with the IRA. Click here to see the list in PDF format, there are 65(!) pages… Goshdarn, so that’s why a lot of good usernames are taken!

Social Media Marketing & The IRA

I really feel like I don’t have to put an actual “This is what we can learn” section on this post, but whatever. The fact is, and most of us already know this, there are a lot of bots and smart people using social media for the wrong reasons. Facebook said in April they actually removed 70 Facebook and Instagram accounts and 138 Facebook Pages allegedly controlled by the IRA. These accounts were targeted at people living in Russia and or Russian-speakers in Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan and Ukraine.

It’s scary to think, if this is only Facebook and Twitter, what other social media platforms were the IRA using? I got an email from Tumblr months ago saying I had re-blogged something by a Russian agency controlled profile… I was like OMG, WHAT?! Crazy, right? What about Reddit, LinkedIn, Pinterest, etc.? I’m interested in seeing more data released about how or if the IRA used those platforms for their initiatives.

See something shady happening on social media? I wanna know about it! Contact me.

Want to do some legit social media marketing activities? You can ask me about that too.


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