A left-wing political action group that tested the efficacy of the viral Twitter ads from the Lincoln Project were surprised to find that they weren’t effective at all.
The Lincoln Project, a super PAC composed of former Republican operatives who are anti-Trump, garnered millions of dollars of support from those on the left while earning scorn and derision from supporters of the president.
But when one of the top Democratic political PACs decided to test their viral Twitter ads, they discovered that the money had not been spent well.
The methodology of the test by Priorities USA was described in a report in the Daily Beast:
They took five ads produced by a fellow occupant in the Super PAC domain—the Lincoln Project—and attempted to measure their persuasiveness among persuadable swing state voters; i.e. the ability of an ad to move Trump voters towards Joe Biden. A control group saw no ad at all. Five different treatment groups, each made up of 683 respondents, saw one of the five ads. Afterwards they were asked the same post-treatment questions measuring the likelihood that they would vote and who they would vote for.
Twitter video ads from the Lincoln Project have raised the ire of pro-Trump Republicans for their over-the-top rhetoric and imagery. In one emotional video from October that received more than one million views, a mom cringes while telling her young son that Trump had won a third term.
Priorities USA wanted to see if something going viral on Twitter could be a substitute for ad testing that would show whether an ad is persuasive or not. Instead they found the opposite:
According to Nick Ahamed, Priorities’ analytics director, the correlation of Twitter metrics—likes and retweets—and persuasion was -0.3, “meaning that the better the ad did on Twitter, the less it persuaded battleground state voters.” The most viral of the Lincoln Project’s ads—a spot called Bounty, which was RTed 116,000 times and liked more than 210,000 times—turned out to be the least persuasive of those Priorities tested.
A top official at The Lincoln Project said that the results made sense because ads that the group posted to Twitter were intended to have a different audience than other efforts they organized on other platforms.
“We were pretty clear from the get go about the lanes of our strategic outreach. The first one, which made the most noise, was for the audience of one. That was the stuff directed at Trump, the campaign, the White House, and the family,” said Reed Galen.
The conclusion that they reached regarding the test on viral Twitter ads was one familiar to social media critics: Twitter is not real life.