A primetime coup
How Americans reacted on Facebook to the January 6th primetime hearing
Last night’s much-hyped primetime hearing of the Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol was a gripping drama from start to finish. We were obviously glued to Twitter, watching the hot takes roll in throughout the night - but how did Americans engage with the spectacle on Facebook?
We ran a quick analysis of organic Facebook engagement data to determine the top-performing posts about the committee, hearing, and January 6th over the past 24 hours. FWIW, what we found may surprise you. Read more after the jump.
By the numbers
FWIW, here were the top-spending political advertisers on Facebook + Instagram last week:
Right-wing media company The Daily Wire spent $1.3 million on Facebook ads last week, mostly promoting its new anti-trans documentary, “What is a Woman?” We believe that’s the most money the Daily Wire has spent on digital ads in a single week since we began tracking in 2018.
Raphael Warnock continues to be the top spending U.S. Senate candidate on digital ads week after week. On Facebook, his campaign isn’t just dumping money into fundraising ads (although they are doing a lot of that too) but is also boosting news articles and persuasive video clips highlighting his record of service to Georgians. Additionally, he released a new theatrical video ad on TV and digital that is one of our favorites of the cycle so far. Give it a watch here.
Meanwhile, here were the top political advertisers on Google platforms last week, including YouTube:
Google and YouTube political ad spending was up last week, driven by heavy spending in California’s primary elections on Tuesday. Believe it or not, campaigns have already spent $47.5 million on the platform in 2022. Here are the top ten advertisers year-to-date:
The battle for Wisconsin is on, with outside groups flooding YouTube with ads aimed at boosting Senator Ron Johnson, while three Democrats duke it out ahead of their August 9th primary election. We found that over the past month, nearly 60% of all political ad dollars on Google targeting Wisconsinites came from just two GOP dark money groups: One Nation and Wisconsin Truth.
Over in Pennsylvania, Planned Parenthood Action Fund PAC has spent $80,000 on new YouTube ads targeting extremist gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano over his support for a total abortion ban. It’s the group’s first major electoral campaign on the platform in what we assume will be a very busy election cycle for them.
Lastly, here are the top political ad spenders on Snapchat so far this year:
From around the internet
Dan Pfeiffer, a longtime friend of FWIW, released his new book Battling the Big Lie this week. It’s packed with important takes on Democrats' messaging and megaphone problems - here are a few notable insights from Dan this week in Vanity Fair and the Washington Post.
NBC News’ Brandy Zadrozny reported that a 2018 algorithm change by Facebook increased shares, comments, and reactions to posts from conservative groups. Read the report here>>
A major primetime coup
To be completely honest, heading into last night’s hearing, I was prepared to sit through another trite performance from out-of-touch House leadership akin to Speaker Pelosi’s Hamilton stunt in January. I was wrong. The excellently choreographed hearing was a gripping drama from the outset, with new facts and evidence scattered throughout various testimonies and video clips. It was a made-for-TV moment. The Associated Press has a great recap of the hearing, with a nod to the unique production style.
How did Americans on Facebook engage with content about the hearing? Here were the top public Facebook posts mentioning January 6th-related keywords, by # of interactions over the past 24 hours:
Over the past 24 hours, Facebook posts about the committee, the hearing, and January 6th generally received a large number of interactions. Unsurprisingly, much of the engagement was driven by several liberal mega-pages that had been hyping the spectacle for quite a while: The Other 98%, Stand Up America and Occupy Democrats. Those pages’ top posts drove high engagement by attacking FOX News’ (lack of) coverage of the hearings and praising Liz Cheney for her patriotism.
Meanwhile, on the Right, the leading posts came from pro-Trump personalities Diamond and Silk and Tucker Carlson, who shared content slamming the committee as a “show trial.” Other right-wing pages slammed the committee’s work as a waste of money, and claimed that Congress should be focused on more pressing issues.
Diamond and Silk’s mention of “2000 Mules” is notable. For those unaware, ‘2000 Mules’ is the title of right-wing conspiracist Dinesh D’Souza’s new documentary, which alleges mass voter fraud in the 2020 election. It has absolutely caught fire on the Right, and has been regularly mentioned by fringe commentators and right-wing media over the past month.
Lastly, about 25% of leading post engagement came from neutral or more authoritative news sources like CNN, NPR, or the New York Times. Among those types of pages, Liz Cheney was the clear winner. Her image and remarks were prominently shared:
Facebook’s algorithm has become something of a partisanship accelerator, juicing the engagement of red-meat pages on the Left and Right. That fact is underlined by the data from last night’s hearing - deeply partisan pages and their die-hard followers racked up the most reactions, comments, and shares, while more neutral or authoritative pages fell a bit behind.
At the end of the day, it’s too early to tell if these hearings will persuade any Americans about the fragile state of our Democracy, or if most people are already tuned out. In my opinion, it doesn’t really matter. Watching the gripping footage of the attack last night, I couldn’t help but think that those political horse-race concerns are secondary - and that these hearings are critically important on their own merits.
One last thing 🙏
That’s it for FWIW this week! Before you go, we have a hard ask - we’re currently reaching 12,156 active weekly subscribers. Can you forward this email to a friend or two and ask them to subscribe?