This pioneer in search marketing shows up for the office without spending on research

Kevin Ryan is a research guy. He’s been doing this for decades – he’s even helped manage programming and content for one of the now defunct and most iconic event brands in the industry, Search Engine Strategies and Search Engine Watch.

But now that he’s running for a seat in the New Jersey assembly, the digital marketing consultant isn’t spending campaign money on research – not at all. Instead, his limited digital media dollars mostly go to Facebook.

While larger campaigns have historically considered search marketing needs to be an integral part of their overall digital campaigns, especially for fundraising efforts, Ryan – a Republican who has an uphill battle in his race for a seat representing the 27th Blue Borough in northern NJ , which is home to places like West Orange, Florham Park and Short Hills, in a blue state – said the potential performance and cost of search marketing just isn’t worth it in the little local race he’s running and which will culminate in the general election of November 2, 2021. This is because the performance and cost of search ads is directly related to the effectiveness of those ads. “It’s just that I’ve never seen a local or regional campaign being able to keep the ads live and run them,” he said.

“I think people are always detached from what they say online and from what they say in real life.”

Kevin Ryan, Digital Marketer and NJ Assembly Candidate

Ryan is right, said a digital policy consultant who declined to be named because he did not have permission from his company to officially speak. “The only place I used the search in the last cycle was to help people find their polling station,” the consultant said. When it comes to a “low-information” election race – like the municipal elections Ryan is running in, in which few voters know who is running or even that there is a local election coming up – broadcast Search ads “is probably the least profitable if you run this kind of race.”

Instead, for Ryan’s campaign and the others he helps lead on behalf of other GOP municipal candidates, Facebook is where he has focused his paid ad testing and video marketing efforts. . “The more you work on this stuff, the more you realize that your time is better spent where people get involved and people spend their time on Facebook,” he told Digiday.

But Facebook might not have much of an impact on getting votes, the political consultant said. While using Facebook ads could be beneficial for a first-time election candidate like Ryan to generate name recognition, the consultant said, it is unlikely to have much of an impact when it comes to to persuade voters. “If its goal is ‘people have to recognize my name and my face and chip in on me,’ maybe,” the consultant said. “He’s trying to maximize what he does with these dollars, but it’s hard to see that that alone would have a measurable impact on your vote total.”

Even Ryan said he had struggled with Facebook ads for his campaign. Once candidate campaigns pass what he called the “moving target” of Facebook’s post-Cambridge Analytica political advertiser verification process, the placement of ads to reach people in a narrow segment of the market. Getting up to speed is no easy task, even for the digital marketing expert, who founded his strategic marketing consultancy Motivity Marketing in 2007.

“If someone is hosting me to give a talk in Livingston, NJ, and we do it at Nero’s Grille, we just want to take this ‘flyer’ to the people of Livingston,” he said, referring to paid Facebook messaging. His answer ? Ryan tested the performance of targeting ads within a few miles of a cafe in Madison, NJ, which is part of the 27th Arrondissement.

Ryan, 48, declined to say how much he plans to spend on advertising for his campaign. For now, he has said he’s running tiny ad trials on Facebook using test budgets to see what kind of targeting is accurate and what works well. In addition to geo-targeting, it serves ads to people belonging to groups of business owners such as local chambers of commerce. He also launched a Facebook video series called “Dad’s Taxi,” which features the candidate driving his children while commenting on issues such as mask warrants.

But most of Ryan’s time and attention isn’t digital at all, really. Even during a pandemic, for the libertarian-leaning Republican, speaking to potential voters in person where they live, work and play is the name of the game.

“One of the things you need to do is not be 100% digital. You have to actually talk to people, ”Ryan said. It turns out that he claims to hear different things from people when communicating in person, say, in a farmer’s market or restaurant, than what they say in the social media universe.

“I think people are always detached from what they say online and from what they say in real life,” he said, noting that the top five things they are concerned about online “will be completely different when you talk to them in person, there is no context.

This search marketing pioneer is running for office, but search is not the most important part of his campaign playbook

Brandon D. James