FILE PHOTO: A 3D-printed elections box and Facebook logo are placed on a keyboard in front of U.S. flag in this illustration…
FILE - A 3D-printed elections box and Facebook logo are placed on a keyboard in front of U.S. flag in this illustration taken Oct. 6, 2020.

WASHINGTON - There was a time when television and radio ads were king in election campaigns, providing candidates with the most efficient and effective way to reach the greatest number of voters.

While television remains critically important to get political messages across, more than $100 million was spent by the campaigns of President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden since June on campaign ads just for Facebook or Instagram.

“Campaigns use social media ads to raise money, to find voters and also to get better, a better picture of who their supporters likely are and what their supporters get excited to hear,” said Jennifer Stromer-Galley, a professor at Syracuse University’s School of Information Studies.

She also leads a team at The Illuminating Project, tracking presidential campaign ads on Facebook and its other social media network, Instagram.

Stromer-Galley says Facebook offers “a brilliant microtargeting strategy” that television advertising cannot match.

“If you're a Republican like Donald Trump and you run a TV ad in the Syracuse media market, you're mostly hitting Democrats. But, if you run a Facebook advertising campaign and you find those people in Syracuse who look like Republicans based on Facebook’s algorithms, that's a much more beneficial approach,” she said.

Images of Instagram corporate logos are displayed online on a laptop computer, Oct. 6, 2020.

Money and the medium

Overall, the Center for Responsive Politics projects nearly $11 billion will be spent on the 2020 election campaign, 50% more than was spent on the 2016 election.

According to the Wesleyan Media Project, which tracks and analyzes federal and gubernatorial election advertising, Trump is outspending Biden on social media by about 22% while Biden has outspent Trump on television by 28% since April.

The project also shows the Trump campaign has spent slightly more on Facebook and Google ads than on television ads, which costs about 10 times what social media ads cost.

The Biden campaign is using its fundraising advantage by airing television ads during pricey football games starting last weekend. Recently, the Trump campaign cut back on ads in the Midwestern states of Ohio and Iowa to spend more in the southern state of Georgia and southwestern state of Arizona, where the two candidates are close in the opinion polls.

Social media mining

Campaigns produce many different social media advertisements to see what sticks with voters. Once an ad results in a click-through to the campaign website, the personal information mining begins.

“The more of that information they can get from you, the better they can match that (to what) their databases already have … and can then start building profiles that predict whether or not you're likely to vote for them on Election Day. And then what kinds of messages they should be sending to you on Facebook to try to get you to turn out to vote or to get more involved,” Stromer-Galley said.

WATCH: Different Messages for Different Media Platforms

Call for action vs. persuasion

Instead of a “call for action,” television campaign advertising tries to persuade voters, usually highlighting a candidate’s character, leadership and policies.

“I've noticed that Trump's advertising on television … the idea that fracking [for fossil fuels] is a major policy matter, that is a differentiator between the Republicans and the Democrats, and they think that issue is resonating. So that's something they're going to advertise and hope that persuades some people to go, ‘oh, yeah, that's an issue that I care a lot about,’” Stromer-Galley explained.

She noticed a distinct difference between Biden’s and Trump’s television ads.

“In his advertisements, (Trump is) more likely to talk about issues than Joe Biden is. Biden is, has kind of been running as the anti-Trump … you don't really see him talking at length or really in much too much extent about policy and issue topics in his campaign advertising,” Stromer-Galley said.

What Happens Next?

What It Means to Become President-Elect in the US

In the United States, Democrat Joe Biden is being called the president-elect.

President-elect is a descriptive term not an official office. As such, Biden has no power in the government, and he would not until he is inaugurated at noon on January 20, 2021.

American news networks, which track all of the vote counting, determined on November 7 that Biden’s lead had become insurmountable in Pennsylvania, putting him over the 270 electoral votes needed to be president. Within minutes of determining his lead was mathematically assured, they projected him as the winner.

That is why news organizations, including VOA, are calling Biden the "projected winner."

Sometimes, in the case of particularly close elections, when news networks make this call, the other candidate does not concede victory. President Donald Trump has not done so, alleging voter fraud without substantial evidence and vowing to fight on. The president’s position has left Washington lawmakers divided, with Republicans backing a legal inquiry into allegations of vote fraud, even as they celebrate other congressional lawmakers who won their races.

When will the dispute be resolved?

The U.S. election won’t be officially certified for weeks. In the meantime, court challenges and state recounts could occur.

So far, the Trump administration has not provided evidence for any fraud that could overturn the result, but there is still time for more legal challenges.

Once states have certified the vote, pledged electors then cast their votes in the Electoral College in mid-December. Congress then certifies the overall Electoral College result in early January, about two weeks before Inauguration Day.