One may think their personal life is far removed from the influence of politics, but a Kelowna expert in marketing will tell you otherwise.
and said that especially now, during a provincial election, it’s important to know how your social media account can be used as a tool by political parties.
The 21-year-old’s full-service digital business marketing agency specializes in early-stage startups and e-commerce (online sales) brands. Fidai does not work with political parties, though he is typical of individuals that parties have in their war-rooms.
Online targeting is evident in our daily lives if you look for it.
Those who shop online may have experienced seeing a product that they previously searched for, showing up in social media feeds, or in the form of ads on other websites. This, Fidai explained, is a basic system that is now standard for many online businesses.
“With technology today, I think people need to be more aware about being persuaded online by political parties… it’s quite easy to persuade a voter through online voting traps,” said Fidai.
Those who interact with any political party’s profile online will likely be targeted with political ads. This could be as simple as visiting a party’s website. Also, if you’ve given your email to a political party and use social media, Fidai said you will most likely be targeted as a supporter.
“If you visited the NDP website, for example, you shouldn’t be surprised if you’re seeing a ton of different ads regarding the NDP,” he said.
If you see an ad consistently showing up that you don’t want to see, particularly on Facebook, a user can click the three dots on the top of the image and select ‘hide ad’. However, Fidai explained other ads from the same party or company can continue to show up.
Yearly, Fidai said advertising platforms become more complex, and algorithms advance at a rapid pace. Now, advertisers and political parties have more information and data to utilize, when targeting individuals.
Advertisers and websites, he explained, will install a piece of coding on the back end of the website called a Facebook Pixel. This tracks users’ information coming to the website, which can be extracted and examined. Then, organizations can use this information to target similar groups of people, based on the people already visiting their sites.
Most of this information, Fidai explained, is extracted from social platforms.
“All of this data is quite easy to extract and utilize for audiences,” he said.
Referencing the new 2020 Netflix documentary film, The Social Dilemma, Fidai said this method of online targeting can skew the democratic process.
“It’s a new era, there’s very few regulations when it comes to political parties and how they’re using these social platforms to engage with voters, and to persuade them.”
With businesses and organizations having the same freedom on social media platforms as individuals, Fidai said he would like to see Facebook better monitor political content and ads. However, because social media is still such a new platform that continues to evolve every day, he admitted it’s hard for governments and regulators to enforce different regulations.
The best way to avoid being taken advantage of online, Fidai said, is to be aware and cognoscente of your online activities.
“It’s hard to do… but maybe just spend less time on the screen, logging out of Facebook more often because that can play a big role,” he said.
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