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Our Super Bowl Didn’t End Sunday

The right needs to engage voters and learn to build an audience for less than $7 million per minute.

2:37 PM, Feb 7, 2012 • By OWEN BRENNAN
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A record 111.3 million people tuned in on Sunday to watch a super model’s prayers go unanswered. But on Facebook, there are more than 845 million users, with half of them logging on every day. And even though 70% of Facebook users are outside the United States, the potential audience to reach during this campaign season is undeniably large and it is also incredibly engaged. For instance, the average Facebook user visits the site 40 times per month and spends 23 minutes each visit. What website do you go to 40 times a month and spend more than 20 minutes on it every time you visit? (Note, this publication's online editor is hoping you say, “”)

Beyond just being a very sticky website, a recent study by Pew reveals Facebook is a hotbed for political activity, where the most active users are more likely to be engaged in political activism and more like persuade their friends to vote a certain way.

There are so many politically active people on Facebook that if you’re a candidate, a non-profit, think tank of a media outlet, you must have a presence on the social media platform.  To be successful though, you have to know how it works. And Facebook doesn’t work how you think it does. And if you’re not using it correctly, chances are your content isn’t being seen, no matter how large your audience is.

The gatekeeper is the Facebook algorithm: EdgeRank. With this, Facebook channels its own version of Ayn Rand: Every time you post, prepare to be judged. Or for readers who champion the cause of fiscal responsibility, one analyst compares EdgeRank to your credit rating, “It's invisible, it's important, it's unique to each user, and no one quite knows how it works.”

More thorough analysis of exactly how EdgeRank works is available elsewhere online. For organizations and individuals – from think tanks and media to scholars and journalists – the single thing to understand about getting the message out in this Social News environment is that the basic rules haven’t changed.

Great headlines, great leads, great topics, great sources and brevity are more important than ever. The fundamental difference with Social News is that outlets can no longer count on delivering what they determine is “All the news that’s fit to print.”

Consumers who get their news in a Social News environment are going to see the content that has the most engaged audience. Consumers of content from the most effective Facebook accounts not only ‘Like’ content, but comment frequently, interact with authors, share content and ideas, and ultimately help deliver the account’s content to their own group of friends. Where the New York Times delivers content to the door step of subscribers, a well crafted post on Facebook can deliver content far beyond the audience that subscribes to your content.

Engagement is Facebook’s secret sauce. But this doesn’t mean your strategy should consist of vapid declarations you hope fans will agree with, like this recent item from Team Romney, “We’re going to take back the White House. We’re going to take back our country. Stand with me.”

Engagement means being engaged with your audience. On Super Bowl Sunday, Team Obama could have made an equally flat declaration like, “Let’s hope we have a great game today!” Or, “Today a great nation of Giants and Patriots gets to celebrate.” Either post would have generated many cheap clicks on ‘Like.’ Though scholars of Los Angeles-area dialects might have greeted this status update with the historically significant, “Gag me with a spoon.”

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