Political Campaign Marketing

The following is a recommendation for political campaigns looking to market themselves online.

A friend recently ran for political office (State Senator in a district in Connecticut) and watching her experience made me see the similarities between running a political campaign and building a startup. There are online marketing strategies that businesses, particularly startups, use today that political campaigns have not yet adapted. Although certain ones have, for example the Obama presidential campaign in 2008, the majority of campaigns are not leveraging the internet to their advantage. There is much innovation that has yet to occur in political campaign marketing. This is particularly true at the state political level. This isn’t a matter of whether political campaigns will begin leveraging the tools available online, but when.

Political Campaign Marketing

Barack Obama's 2008 Campaign Was One Of The First To Leverage The Internet

In this post I argue that an aspiring politician can significantly improve their chances of winning an election through an effective online campaign and then I outline the specific initiatives they should take. I support an effective online marketing campaign as a complement, not as a replacement, to a strong off-line and in person campaign.

Politicians need to understand that the goal of an online campaign is not: I have seen this person online; I am going to vote for them.

The Goal Is: I saw this person online who seems interesting. They will be holding/speaking at event X. Perhaps I should attend or sign up for more information about the candidate.

Political aspirants need to approach an online marketing campaign as a process. That process begins with a connection. That connection grows over time (email sign up, Facebook Follow, attending an event, volunteering, etc.) The culmination is goodwill and a vote at election time.

The benefit of online marketing to a political campaign is that familiarity breeds trust.  However, there is no familiarity without awareness. You can build awareness, familiarity, and trust online. This is important because individuals vote for who they know, trust, and identify with.

Political Campaign Marketing

Political Campaign Marketing

The reason why an effective online campaign is so relevant to someone interested in running for office is that:

  • Over 2/3 of individuals turn to the internet for their source of news
  • Adult Internet users are now spending an average of 13 hours a week online
  • Conversations are currently 1-1, however online you can scale the conversation to 1-many online. You can allocate your resources (money, volunteers, etc.) more effectively online.
  • It’s not only who you know, but more importantly who knows you. You can build an online profile and present your identity.

Even those who believe that an online campaign would not be relevant to a voter base need to understand that the average age of Twitter users, which seems to be a platform that only younger people use, is 31.

When beginning an online campaign, I would approach the campaign as a company would approach a large sale.

When a user visits the website, there should be one call to action. This means that when visits the website you want them to pursue one further action. (For example: Sign up for our email for updates.) After the user has taken that call to action, the goal is to continue engagement until the day a user votes.

From the email, encourage users to follow your Facebook Page, to donate, to volunteer, etc. Regarding a strategy for Facebook, the goal is thousands of Facebook Page fans that you can constantly connect with. The benefit to a political campaign is that Facebook allows you the ability to instantly communicate with users.

Political Campaign Marketing

The key is to post and articulate thoughts that your followers will be interested in. What would a resident of your County/State/etc. be interested in?

  • Talk about changes that should be made
  • Ask what concerns people in the community have
  • Post interesting facts regarding your town/area

With regards to a Twitter account, the same premise follows as for a Facebook Page. You should post relevant content. The beauty of Twitter is the following: Twitter allows you to create connections that you couldn’t do otherwise.

Again, the point is not to build voters; the point is to create a connection that you can then strengthen over time.

I would also recommend an article/blogging strategy for the candidate’s website. Write relevant articles and then contact individuals who it affects and would be interested. Finding emails would be easy; this information could all be found online.

An example is the following: No new taxes on businesses in state of Connecticut. Then email list of businesses about the article.

Most people spam; this is the opposite. Create specific information that a certain demographic would be interested in and share that information with them. You’re moving beyond awareness; now individuals identify with you.

If you create relevant content that people are visiting (website, Facebook Page, Twitter account), you have created a platform. This is powerful. The goal of media (for example Patch.com) is to bring in traffic to the websites. If they know you have an audience, then you have leverage.

Online media would pay more attention to you because of your potential inlinks and traffic. I would also recommend looking for other platforms to communicate with your audience; for example answering an “Ask the Candidate” section on a local forum. Here you could post question/answers for residents of the town. You could also talk to online media website and let them know you want to be involved, and the benefit they could receive.

These are only initial thoughts. The next step is to continue innovating strategies, to continue finding ways to build awareness and to identify with others. As a complement to an off-line and in person strategy, an internet marketing strategy is a very effective and efficient way to do this.