For a man who loves Twitter, Donald Trump sure has a hard time getting the digital basics right. Exhibit A? His first official campaign fundraising email, which arrived in supporters' inboxes on June 21.
Well, some supporters' inboxes, anyway. According to Ad Age's Kate Kaye, that message and a follow-up note sent the next day had some serious delivery problems. She reported that a whopping 60 percent of those emails went straight to recipients' spam folders, apparently due to 101-level mistakes. For instance, his digital team changed the campaign's sending domain from DonaldTrump.com to DonaldJTrump.com without taking the usual precautionary measures.
Individual recipients have been no kinder to him than the spam gatekeepers. Kaye cites data from email tracking firm Return Path, which noted that his (targeted) May messages were reported as spam at a brutal rate of 7.9 percent, when one complaint per thousand is often enough to put a mass sender like a political campaign in spam jail.
By contrast, Bernie Sanders's messages were marked as spam only 0.3 percent of the time over the same period. Trump's team has said that his kickoff email raised millions, but that claim also raised some eyebrows, particularly in light of the fact (as Return Path noted) that only 12 percent of recipients got around to opening it, and 6 percent deleted it unread.
I do hear that Trump's not alone in having problems with email delivery, since people in the know have whispered to me that other big-name political fundraising operations are running into problems breaking the spam barrier. Churn-and-burn fundraising and other bad practices will catch up with anyone.
For Trump, though, the bad news kept coming: on June 28th, liberal blogs gleefully reported that the presumptive Republican nominee had send fundraising emails to Scottish members of Parliament, congratulating them on freeing themselves from the shackles of European domination. First let's note that Scotland voted to Remain in the European Union, which actually presents the smallest problem for Trump in this scenario.
His bigger mistake: it's illegal for American political campaigns to raise money from foreign nationals. Not content with just spamming Scotland, Trump has apparently also tried to raise money from Icelandic MPs, too. Is it possible to make fundraising great again when you're openly violating the law?
I'm sure Trump's team was under serious pressure to get the money flowing this month, after a May performance that would be charitably described as dismal. He now hopes to bring in $20 million in June, which would still half of what Hillary Clinton raised in May. Earlier this month, Trump turned his previous campaign loans into donations to reassure Republican big donors. Next up: convincing small donors that he's worth investing in. But first, he needs to make sure they actually see his emails, and that they're not in Europe when they do.
Trump Hires a Digital Director — and More
As part of his campaign ramp-up, Trump recently announced the hiring of Brad Parscale as his new digital director. Parscale's San Antonio-based firm had built the various iterations of Trump's campaign website in the past, and it has a track record of creating some nice-looking and effective sites. But his marketing materials skew heavily toward the design-and-build front and less toward email fundraising.
Enter experienced Republican political operative and social-media expert Vincent Harris, whose firm has also done recent work for Trump, presumably to supplement Parscale's experience. Also new on board is the Prosper Group, another solid veteran of Republican digital politics.
Assuming that the team works well together, they should help Trump build a more-comprehensive online campaign apparatus. But remember the split between former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski and senior advisor Paul Manafort, which ultimately cost Lewandowski his job? Ugly divisions like that on the digital front would do his online recruiting and fundraising no favors.
Hillary Clinton Goes Millennial-Hunting on SnapChat
Everyone knows that the kids love Bernie, but like a bevy of Republican hopefuls last summer, Clinton apparently hopes that Snapchat will provide a new road to their hearts. As Emily Cahn reports, her campaign will now take people inside its operations via SnapChat, Instagram, Quora and other less-traveled political paths. Tools like these don't have much potential for direct action, since they're not always good at presenting people with options for involvement beyond just watching things. Still, every connection is a chance to put a human face on a sprawling political operation, and perhaps to win over a slice of the coveted Millennial vote. Now, if the darn kids would just turn out to vote, and get off my lawn while they're at it.
[Update: Shortly after his hire, we found out that Vincent Harris was already on his way out. That didn't take long!]
Colin Delany is founder and editor of the award-winning Epolitics.com, a twenty-year veteran of online politics and a perpetual skeptic. See something interesting? Send him a pitch at firstname.lastname@example.org