Clockwise from top left: Micheál Martin, Mary Lou McDonald and Leo Varadkar.

Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin have spent over €50k on Facebook adverts so far this campaign

The three main parties are way ahead in terms of spending on Facebook and Instagram since the campaign got under way.

FIANNA FÁIL AND Sinn Féin have significantly increased their spend on Facebook adverts in the past week, as they make their pitch to the electorate ahead of the upcoming general election.

And, in terms of interactions – people liking, sharing or commenting on their posts – Sinn Féin is significantly outperforming its rivals on Facebook according to data supplied by Crowd Tangle.

Currently there are no spending limits for political parties using digital ad campaigns. Through targeted Facebook ads, political parties buying ads on Facebook platforms can select an age group, gender or particular area they would like to target. 

After spending €2,340 in the first week of campaigning, Fianna Fáil spent €17,922 in the second week to 26 January, according to figures from the Facebook Ad Library.

Sinn Féin spent €1,141 in the first week, but increased this to €8,785 in the second.

Fine Gael’s spending had far outstripped its rivals in the first week of campaigning with €11,402 spent. This increased to €14,363 in week two. 

Facebook spend by political parties on their page@2x

The spend from these three parties on their main Facebook and Instagram account makes up the bulk of the social spend from political parties on these platforms. 

And, the spending this week means that political parties have spent just over €100,000 since last March on adverts on Facebook and Instagram. 

The Facebook Ad Library was created by the social media platform as part of efforts to improve transparency over who is funding online political advertisements.

This came following the criticism over the spread of disinformation online during the Brexit referendum and the US presidential election, both in 2016.

Here’s a breakdown of how much the parties are spending, and how well they’re doing:

Fine Gael

Fine Gael’s Facebook advert strategy has seen the party focus on what it says it will do if it gets returned to government. 

It has also been targeting specific areas to say what their plans would mean for that county. 

For example, a 25-second video featuring text about specific plans for Galway was seen between 6,000 and 7,000 times.

Other adverts include content on what Fine Gael would do for the self-employed and low-paid workers.

Another advert features Health Minister Simon Harris speaking to camera about the party’s plans for exclusion zones at maternity hospitals. That advert was seen between 50,000 to 60,000 times at a cost of between €500 and €599. 

fine gael harris ad

Since March, the party has spent €40,012 on Facebook and Instagram advertising. This includes €14,363 spent from 20-26 January.

And, after spending €5,779 on adverts appearing from Leo Varadkar’s own Facebook page in the first week of campaigning, adverts on his page only amounted to €144 last week.

Fianna Fáil

Following on from the previous week, Fianna Fáil has largely stuck to its strategy of putting specific candidates front and centre in many of its adverts.

As they can be targeted to specific areas, the adverts are aiming at reaching people in the candidate’s constituency.

fianna fail candidates

In one case, it created three separate adverts for Meath East candidate Deirdre Geraghty-Smith. Between the three adverts, they were seen a maximum of 12,000 times but show the candidate talking about a number of separate issues.

Other adverts are covering specific topics such as farming, housing and the health service.

Since March, the party has spent €38,639 on Facebook and Instagram advertising. This includes €17,922 spent from 20-26 January.

After a spend of less than €100 in the first week of campaigning from Micheal Martin’s Facebook account, €1,603 was spent last week.

Sinn Féin

When it comes to Sinn Féin’s adverts, some of the party’s main figures have been front and centre of its campaign on Facebook and Instagram.

Earlier this week, leader Mary Lou McDonald, finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty and housing spokesperson Eoin Ó Broin launched the party’s manifesto.

It is these three Sinn Féin TDs that feature in a large proportion of its advertising on Facebook and Instagram.

The language also ranges from the formal (“A Sinn Féin Minister for Housing will immediately introduce a rent reduction and three-year rent freeze”) to the less formal (“G’wan Mary Lou!”).

The ones referencing rent and housing are being primary seen in the 18-34 age bracket.

sinn fein housing

Since March, the party has spent €17,875 on Facebook and Instagram advertising. This includes 8,785 spent from 20-26 January.


labour adverts

Labour has only run five social adverts on Facebook and Instagram this month.

Two of them have ran the message that the party would stop the rise in the State pension age to 67 next year, saying it’s “non-negotiable”. 

Two others feature a party spokesperson in debates broadcast on RTÉ and Virgin Media One with the message “Enough is enough. Just freeze rents already”.

Since March, the party has spent €6,760 on Facebook and Instagram advertising. This includes 1,084 spent from 20-26 January.

Reaching the audience

The spend by other parties is relatively minimal compared to the other four listed above.

Solidarity-PBP spent only €381 while the Social Democrats and the Green Party spent €100 or less each.

Numerous candidates have paid money for advertising on the social media platform in the first week of electioneering, as it allows candidates to target a specific area and pay relatively small amounts to have their advert appear for Facebook and Instagram users in that area.

Outside of advert spend, the reach for these political parties on Facebook varies greatly.

According to Crowd Tangle, Sinn Féin has by far had the most interactions – likes, comments and shares – in the past seven days with 85,025. The party also enjoys the highest number of page likes on Facebook with 182,000.

People Before Profit, meanwhile, had the second most engagements on Facebook with 15,395 with Aontú in third with 8,214.

Despite their large spend on Facebook, Fianna Fáil (7,552 engagements) and Fine Gael (6,625) are in fourth and fifth place.

After these parties come Renua, the National Party, the Irish Freedom Party, the Green Party and Solidarity in the top ten.

It must be noted, these engagement figures aren’t indicative of the most popular parties on Facebook given that many comments and shares could be negative towards that party. 

In keeping with the party figures, the candidates who enjoy the most engagement on Facebook are primarily from Sinn Féin.

Leader Mary Lou McDonald is top with 38,102 interactions in the past seven days. Also in the top 10 are fellow party members Pearse Doherty, Matt Carthy, Maurice Quinlivan, David Cullinane, Gerry Adams (who’s not standing in the election) and Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire.

Others in the top ten include Rise TD Paul Murphy, independent councillor Christy Burke and Solidarity-PBP’s Gino Kenny.

Leo Varadkar is in 13th place with the Healy Rae brothers Michael and Danny also in the top 20.

In terms of viral content, this Troy McClure-inspired post from Paul Murphy got shared over 4,000 times.

paul murphy

This, meanwhile, from Sinn Féin’s Mairead Farrell was shared over 7,000 times.

mairead farrell

On Instagram, Michael Healy-Rae comes out on top with almost a quarter of all interactions for politicians in the last seven days with 5,019.

Leo Varadkar is in second with Green Party councillor Róisín Garvey in third.

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