Beyond finding trusted vendors or doing the little things yourself, there are certain rules small campaigns should follow when using digital tools.
Sure, you want your web vendor to know about things like custom audiences, which domain you want as a main page and which ones should redirect. Moreover, you should insist your data vendor has up-to-date files. Your email vendor, meanwhile, should be monitoring for bounces and spam delivery. And don’t forget about all the posting and targeting on your social media.
The list for a campaign’s digital requirements can seem endless. That’s why I compiled these 15 rules to help managers, candidates and consultants navigate the cyberspace maze.
15. Creatives are like cops – they’re never around when you need them.
You’ll inevitably find yourself waiting on your designer to get you content — even if you bring them in-house. Find designers who understand your communications philosophy and goals, but also understand that campaign speed is in line with, “I had this idea and I want to get it out” not “let’s schedule all of our posts and have art the week before for approval.” Still, you can try to plan in advance by having ready-made graphics to put words on and distribute when the time comes.
14. ABT: Always Be Trolling.
Post unflattering articles and memes about your opponents as much as you do the good stuff about your campaign. It energizes supporters to share. And you never know, an undecided voter could see it and break your way. After about 10 forums where all the candidates ganged up on my client Todd Strange, during his reelection race in Montgomery, Ala., there was a final, televised forum the Thursday before the election. We made “The Idiots Guide to Attacking The Mayor and Denigrating Montgomery,” and posted it to our Facebook page. It got a ton of laughs and likes.
13. Have real-world goodies you can reward online friends with.
While we liked the design of the campaign “buttons,” it wasn’t until we ran a contest asking voters to state their preference — and tell us their information — that the time and money spent on design paid off.
12. It’s not all about the cookies.
Facebook will probably be the public’s main way of communicating with your campaign. Facebook had 968 million daily active users on average worldwide for June 2015, and currently drives more page clicks than Google. While you may have heard “the kids aren’t on it” in a local election, or if they are, they’re not voters, that’s simply not true. To be clear, they’re still on it. Everyone’s on it.
11. Don’t forget your SEO.
If people are googling anything pertaining to the race, you should strive to have your links come up first. Buy keywords that your opponents have been using in their attacks against you to have your message appear first. For instance during the mayor’s race, we used “Montgomery crime” to refer voters to our ad about public safety.
10. Quantify your assets – and figure out where else they can help you.
If you have more than 1,000 emails, you can make a targetable custom audience using only Facebook’s Custom Audience tool.
9. Email until you can email no more.
Just using email replies we were able to identify more than 1,000 voters, and a good number of “nos” as well. In the end, our email list was over 25,000 people for an election where 40,000 people voted.
8. Think about Pandora.
The online radio company had more than 250 million registered users as of last December with the majority of its listeners streaming music through their phones. There’s a good chance it’s the biggest radio station in your market. I had someone approach me every day and tell me how much they liked my ads on Pandora. I had a county commissioner tell me our video ad was the best he’d ever seen, and he wouldn’t have seen it any other way.
7. Feed the beast.
This should be canon by now, but content is king. Come up with a daily message and drive it to your persuadable voters via Facebook.
6. Third-party validation.
Link to stories that are good. What good is the newspaper endorsement if you’re only counting on people who read the print or online edition to see it? We received the strong endorsement of the Montgomery Advertiser. We then posted it and boosted it until almost every eligible voter we were targeting saw it.
5. Use your staff, volunteers, friends and family to boost organic reach.
Every time we posted a video, or important information, we tagged the candidate’s children, the office staff, the volunteers and supporters. Most of the time we would see organic reach numbers that were similar to paid reach numbers. But we also know that paid reach numbers were targeted to our most likely voters – making them the more valuable and reliable stat.
4. Online fundraising isn’t just for presidential races.
On a lot of local races in the South, people still want to put the check in the candidate’s hand. But via a partnership with Raise The Money we were able to raise almost $20,000 online. We did so by having a link on our Facebook page, texting the link to possible donors once we’d had conversations with them, or commitments to serve on event host committees, and putting a link in every email we sent out. If someone told me at the grocery store they wanted to donate, I would immediately send them a link.
3. Don’t forget your old-school tech, like billboards.
Yes, billboards. We looked at the geography of the city and where our voters were and bought digital boards where they’d be seen by our targets. We then used our creative, and the ability to drive different messages every few days in the final two weeks of the campaign.
In larger metros and rural districts this would be even more effective because of customization. On Election Day, we had a “Today Is Election Day – Go Vote!” message in the morning, and a countdown to the polls closing in the evening. After the polls closed we ran a “Thank You Montgomery” message until our contract ran out at midnight.
2. Facebook is the new chase call.
Match your mail list to Facebook contacts, have your designer make a version of your mail that gets under Facebook’s 20-percent text rule, and make a chase saying, “Look for our newest piece in your mailbox today.” You might be surprised at the number of “I got it and I’m voting” and “I didn’t receive it” responses. Don’t sweat the ones who didn’t get it: They may not be in your target universe, and they just got a strong persuasion message.
1. Think outside the box – but not too far.
Are you going to win a mayor’s race by spending $10,000 on Snapchat? Probably not. Are you going to drive the conversation with your Twiticisms or hashtags? No, because reporters and rival consultants most likely won’t engage. Can you drive 1,000 views before noon by making a BuzzFeed community post? Yes, yes you can. It goes back to the content-is-king rule.
David Mowery is the founder and president of Mowery Consulting Group