The digital space has become an increasingly important—and diverse, and lucrative, and powerful—medium for candidates to market themselves to voters. This election cycle, we’ve seen campaigns go to new lengths to make sure that their figurehead stays relevant and connected to voters who use the internet to get their daily dose of political spin.

Enter Facebook, our powerhouse platform. Last week, Facebook partnered with Fox News to create an interactive experience for viewers of the first GOP Presidential primary debate of the 2016 cycle. Facebook explains:

The event sparked strong social conversation with 7.5 million people generating more than 20 million Facebook posts, comments, and likes. Many turned to Facebook to comment on the candidates’ performances and discuss issues of importance, as the voices and faces of people on the platform framed the questions and tone of this early #GOPDebate.


During the debate, the candidates responded to questions directly from people on Facebook, including Facebook Video submissions. This was the result of a month-long, call-to-action campaign that generated nearly six million views and received more than 40,000 responses. FOX News asked viewers to submit their “one question” for the candidates. These videos and posts elicited powerful, personal responses that were incorporated directly into questions from the moderators.

When the debate was over, Facebook doubled down on the importance of connection-building by showing users that their questions hadn’t just faded into the void:

Senator Rand Paul answered a Facebook user’s question on what he would do to ensure that Christians are not prosecuted for speaking out against gay marriage: http://bit.ly/1hmuNnI

Posted by Fox News on Thursday, August 6, 2015

Candidates don’t look at Facebook as just a networking platform; they see it as a tool they can use to market a side of themselves voters don’t often get to see in TV spots or at a rally. Texas Senator Ted Cruz shared a picture of himself and his daughters taking some time together backstage during Thursday’s debate whirlwind.

ted cruz instagram

Images like this are powerful, especially for firebrands like Cruz who sometimes come across as perpetually intense and plugged in to the political scene. It serves as a reminder that yes, these guys are human. (Shock!)

At this weekend’s RedState Gathering in Atlanta, Georgia, Facebook set up a “60 Second Challenge” and allowed candidates to answer non-political (read: human) questions about themselves. Marco Rubio stepped up and had fun with it:

Yesterday at the RedState Gathering in Atlanta, I took the Facebook 60 second challenge – find out who my childhood idol was and more! #RSG15

Posted by Marco Rubio on Saturday, August 8, 2015

As with any medium, the digital space is easily manipulable. If you’re careful, you can whitewash your past, present, and future to look absolutely #flawless—and most voters will see that coming a mile away. People crave authenticity in their connections, which is why I think mediums like Instagram (a Facebook property), or campaigns like Facebook’s “60 Second Challenge,” are crucial buy-ins for candidates who are interested in keeping things real and—oh, I don’t know—staying human in the midst of the this three ring circus of a primary season.