What we learned from Haley’s launch
Her day-one metrics reveal the changing state of the political internet and set a bar for the rest of the field
This week, former South Carolina Governor and U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley officially launched her campaign for president, with a splashy announcement video followed by a rally in Charleston. Since Haley is the first major candidate not named Donald Trump in the race, her launch sets a bar for other potential rivals and gives a glimpse into how grassroots conservatives will interact with these campaigns online.
I’ll break down what we learned in this week’s FWIW. But first…
By the numbers
FWIW, here were the top-spending political advertisers on Facebook + Instagram last week:
Former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s political committee, America Strong & Free, spent heavily on Facebook ads last week to build a supporter list ahead of a likely presidential campaign.
There has also been a steady stream of Facebook spending in Wisconsin, where next Tuesday’s state Supreme Court election has enormous consequences for state and federal politics. The leading spender on Facebook and Instagram in that race is The Wisconsin Initiative, a group tied to Democrats that is running pretty non-partisan abortion-related ads. Other groups running digital ads include A Better Wisconsin Together and Working America.
Meanwhile, here were the top-spending political advertisers on Google and YouTube last week:
Spending on Google & YouTube ads continued to be limited last week. Rep. Chuy Garcia, running to be Chicago’s next mayor, was the top spending advertiser nationwide on these platforms. His campaign is running a mix of video + search. At least four other top advertisers were running ads related to the Wisconsin Supreme Court race.
…and here’s a quick look at political ad spending on Snapchat, year-to-date.
Think about subscribing to FWIW!
It’s only $5 a month or $50 a year, and that gives you access to fully paywalled newsletters and a special Tuesday news round-up. It also means that you’ll help keep these original insights and data flowing through the next election cycle. Hit the button below to learn more:
From around the internet
Twitter released new guidelines for political campaigns and other entities looking to run ads on its platform. The company also announced that it will make available some type of ad transparency “disclosure report” upon request.
Freshman Rep. Jeff Jackson (D-NC)’s Substack chronicling his experience as a freshman member of Congress has reached nearly 1 million subscribers. I wrote about his newsletter shortly after its launch back in January.
Right-wing social media personalities have suddenly become environmental advocates, aggressively posting and attacking the Biden administration over the Ohio train derailment.
Come hang! Next Tuesday, I’m partnering with Renew US to lead a free webinar on one of my favorite things - newsletters! I’ll share some of my favorites, tips for making your own, and lay out the case for why I think they’re a great, underutilized tool for political campaigns, elected officials, and advocacy groups. RSVP here >>
What we learned from Haley’s launch
This week, former South Carolina Governor and U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley officially launched her campaign for president, with a splashy announcement video followed by a rally in Charleston.
I previously asked several Democratic experts to lay out what a successful campaign launch day looks like - and each agreed that it’s primarily about checking key boxes, making sure the lights turn on, and maximizing grassroots fundraising. Since Haley is the first major candidate not named Donald Trump in the race, her launch also sets a bar for other potential rivals and gives a glimpse into how grassroots conservatives will interact with these campaigns online.
So how did Haley do? It’s complicated.
Day One fundraising
The clearest measure of success and enthusiasm on a campaign’s launch day is how much money they can raise - especially from grassroots, small-dollar donors. If everything went well, Tuesday should have been one of Haley’s biggest fundraising days of the entire campaign. Typically, a campaign’s staff will release their 24-hour raise number, looking to generate some positive earned media and boast about their grassroots momentum.
As of this writing, her campaign has not revealed how much they raised on Tuesday - a potentially bad sign. ⚠️ (The web version of this story will be updated as soon as that changes.)
What’s a reasonable amount to expect from announcements like these? Looking at some historical numbers - Ted Cruz crossed the $1 million threshold in 24 hours in 2015, and so did then Sen. Kamala Harris in 2019. The high watermark comes from Beto O’Rourke and Joe Biden’s campaigns, which both brought in colossal day-one sums in 2019 - $6.1 million and $6.3 million, respectively.
Nowadays, raising anything less than $1 million in 24 hours seems like stumbling out of the gate. The $1 million threshold was quickly passed recently by three candidates for U.S. Senate - Katie Porter, Adam Schiff, and Ruben Gallego - so presidential aspirants in theory should have even larger buy-in from grassroots donors.
Haley’s digital advertising program has been limited. Before Tuesday, her campaign ran several ads on Facebook and Instagram to build a crowd at her Charleston rally and other early state events, spending around $2,000 to do so.
Her team chose not to run Facebook fundraising ads featuring rally clips or her launch video - which seems like a major mistake. The only fundraising ads on Facebook in support of Haley’s bid appeared yesterday morning - 48 hours after her official launch.
On Google, Twitter users (FWIW included) were quick to point out that Haley’s campaign was not running any Search ads for her campaign - but Google’s ad archive now shows that her campaign indeed spent heavily on its platforms for fundraising - around $50,000 since Tuesday night.
After fundraising, social media engagement and views on her launch video can be a good measure of grassroots interest in Haley’s campaign.
Within the first 24 hours, Haley’s 3.5-minute long (!) campaign announcement video received 3.3 million views across platforms - which isn’t a bad showing. Here’s a breakdown of where it was viewed by platform:
The most striking thing about the above breakdown is the video’s complete lack of reach on Facebook - where it was only viewed 36,000 times in the campaign’s first 24 hrs. By contrast, it was seen nearly 800,000 times on Instagram during the same time period and earned 2.5 million views on Twitter.
Less successful, however, was the campaign’s effort to get supporters to watch her live-streamed rally on Wednesday. At the height of her speech, only around 2,000 people tuned into the official YouTube or Facebook streams.
Haley’s rivals and critics were particularly engaged with her big launch week, as opposition research dumps fell from the sky and earned media stunts tried to rain on her parade. Donald Trump’s campaign, for instance, ran these classic Facebook ads highlighting her flip-floppy support of his 2024 candidacy.
…and Democrats wanted in on the fun too - trolling Haley’s kickoff rally with a truck spreading the same message.
Checking the boxes
“[It’s] just flipping a bunch of switches, and if you've done it right, the power turns on,” one strategist told FWIW last month. At the end of the day, it looks like Haley’s team successfully flipped most of those switches - even if her ability to raise grassroots dollars remains an open question.
She has a fully functioning website, merch for sale, live-streamed events, a texting and email program, fundraising ads, rapid response, launch video, the whole deal. Now they just need to figure out what she stands for.
That’s it for FWIW this week! If you enjoyed reading this issue, give it a share on Twitter.
Have a tip, idea, comment or question? Shoot me a reply and I promise to respond to every email.