Campaigning for Your Vote: Going Digital for Political Office

The cyber race is on. U.S. President Barack Obama and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney are in search of the medal for the most successful social media campaign to capture the younger American demographic. In 2008, Obama made known his dedication to his Blackberry, and he’s become our first Twitter-friendly president. His team successfully built his online visibility and has used the Internet to promote his goal of “Change.” Now that Romney has caught on, it’s a race to the finish.

A New Kind of Platform

With interactive media, campaigns become more like dialogue. When Romney’s digital director, Zac Moffatt, tells the Washington Post, “Twitter has become the ultimate real-time engagement tool for our campaign,” you know this is a new kind of platform. You don’t have to be in Charlotte, Tampa or glued to the TV to see it, either.

“Off the grid” voters are now part of Targeted Victory’s (Romney’s ad agency) audience targeting platform (ATP). People who are not watching television— acquiring information from Facebook, Twitter, interactive features and online video — make up a growing number of voters, according to Moffatt. However, the tradition of the standard podium-style speech and debate is still popular, especially among voters over the age of 29.

Keeping Score

The San Francisco Chronicle reports Twitter users sent 3 million tweets on the first night of the Democratic National Convention, while the entire Republican National Convention sent 4 million tweets during the Tampa Bay event. More proof that “the times they are a-changin':” Romney’s campaign says Twitter has replaced the 6 p.m. nightly news deadline, and campaigns turn to Facebook pages to gauge public opinion, reports the blog The Network.

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What Can We Learn From Them?

It might be less of a race between candidates on social media and more of a race between their ad agencies. With Romney’s mobile apps, Obama’s updated web page and both of their content pages for each of the 50 states, we can learn from each campaign and implement their competing tactics into our own business models. Where do you start? The first step to creating an online presence is to get a custom-built host with a provider, such as VPS hosting.

The better a site is built, the faster it delivers users. The Twitter profile @InvisibleObama was created within minutes after the famous Clint Eastwood speech during the Republican Convention and now has 69,692 followers. The profile implies it is actually Barack Obama but as people create more and more personal and professional personas, it’s hard to know. With 400 million tweets per day (reported by marketingland.com), you will be left in the dust if you do not become part of the online community. This is where web hosting comes to the rescue.

Commercials Are So 2008

According to the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism study on social media and the election, Obama wins the digital direct messaging portion of the race. With 19 million Twitter followers, compared to Romney’s 1 million, his online experience and longevity gives the incumbent leverage. At least for now.

Romney is closing in on the digital divide, though. He has hired Targeted Victory as his interactive ad agency to upgrade his online advertising, mobile communications and social media strategy. It’s a good thing, too.

As much as we don’t like to think the past repeats itself, the candidate with the highest comprehension and implantation of communication has been most successful. Examples include Franklin Roosevelt and his rise with the radio and John F. Kennedy’s friendship with the television cameras. Being in tune with technological growth implies that a candidate is aware and in touch with where the country is headed.

The Conversation IS the Relationship

When the social aspect of social media generates chatter, that’s when the game changes. Think of it as a tornado. A few people on Twitter get into a cyber chat about one particular candidate, and before you know what hit you, it’s spun into 3 million tweets in one evening. That is a really well-designed online campaign. When a candidate becomes socially involved, you’ll see them replying, retweeting and commenting on other people’s profiles and personas. When it comes to Facebook and Twitter, “sharing” is caring.

Re-tweets and shares — that’s how your message goes viral. Mediabistro tells us that the way to go viral is to learn what your followers want to read, share unique and well-written content and deliver what you promise in your irresistible headlines. When you retweet great content, add your own voice to the conversation and explain why you are re-tweeting or sharing the information.

Analyze, Analyze, Analyze

Those “shares and tweets” are analyzed to the nth degree by tech-savvy deep-data-analysis companies that weigh online users’ habits to target messages and attempt to predict outcomes. Big Data is one company that follows Internet users’ habits individually in order to create micro-targeted ads aimed at their particular “likes.” CNN and Facebook have joined for this election to interpret Romney and Obama stats.

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For the next few months, we can look forward to watching the details unfold. Will the social media campaigns be the deciding force in the 2012 Presidential Election? We’ll know once the votes are cast and the data has been analyzed. Until then, become a part of the online community. It really does work.

About Heather Ferris

Heather Ferris is a marketing professional and social media strategist with a degree in English Lit and a passion for politics, the Minnesota Vikings (ouch), coffee, and books. The physical kind, mostly, but she’ll read anything. She writes about the fascinating ways the rise of digital media and social networking have changed the framework of the advertising industry, and her experience in social media strategy give her a unique perspective on the use of digital networking in political campaigns. Between taking her two giant Labradors to the dog park and attempting to cook without burning down the house, Heather spends her time scouring the internet for the latest social media products, crazy political news, and the newest Apple updates.

One Response to Campaigning for Your Vote: Going Digital for Political Office

  1. Social media platforms like Twitter will play a large role in the political campaigns and the upcoming elections. Any politician who knows how to wield social media strategically can have a substantial advantage over other candidates.

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