Facebook's political squad looks overseas

Coverage and outreach efforts for elections in the U.K. and Germany are of interest to the social network, marketing director Randi Zuckerberg told CNET News.

Caroline McCarthy Former Staff writer, CNET News
Caroline McCarthy, a CNET News staff writer, is a downtown Manhattanite happily addicted to social-media tools and restaurant blogs. Her pre-CNET resume includes interning at an IT security firm and brewing cappuccinos.
Caroline McCarthy
2 min read

Social network Facebook hopes to replicate the phenomenal success of its 2008 U.S. presidential election outreach and coverage in other countries, outreach and marketing director Randi Zuckerberg told CNET News on Thursday.

"This week is definitely all the post-election aftermath, but I'm definitely looking forward to jumping right into some of the international politics (and) international elections," said Zuckerberg (who is, in case you were wondering, CEO Mark Zuckerberg's sister). "It's a little more fun to work on some of those because they don't draw out their elections for a year and a half."

It's a logical conclusion for the social network, as numbers indicate that three-quarters of the site's users are now outside its native U.S.

Right now, Facebook is in election heaven. According to its official blog, more than 5.4 million users clicked an "I Voted" widget that shared the news with members of their friends' list. Some 1.7 million used the "Causes" application to encourage their friends to vote. Out of Facebook's 125 million members, 15 million of those aged 18 or older logged into the site on Election Day. Mark Zuckerberg said Thursday at the Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco, members distributed 200,000 copies in a single day of a "virtual gift" advertisement created by The New York Times that depicted its election results headline.

Randi Zuckerberg said to CNET News that two of the countries where Facebook is hoping to jump into election media are the U.K., where Facebook actually has greater penetration than in the U.S., and Germany. It's going to be a learning process, Zuckerberg added. "There are legal restrictions that are different in every single country. I was even learning about the U.S. legal restrictions down to the last second, some of the things like with Ben & Jerry's and Starbucks giving stuff away for free on our site."

The two had launched high-profile campaigns, advertised on Facebook, in which free Ben & Jerry's ice cream or Starbucks coffee was offered to anyone who voted. Giving incentives in exchange for a vote is technically illegal in the U.S., something that most people were not aware of until Starbucks had to announce that it would give a free tall coffee to anyone on Tuesday, regardless of vote.

"In the U.K., for example, there are certain rules about showing advertising around political content," Zuckerberg continued. "We'll definitely have to get in there and learn the lay of the land."