Launching a presidential campaign is hard work, particularly in an age where every stumble is picked up with glee on social media by people not fond of the candidate. With so many moving parts and so many people looking for trouble, a campaign's online presence is almost certain to yield fodder for critics and comedians.
Despite presiding over a campaign years in the making, even Hillary Clinton wasn't immune. Her initial campaign emails, as Erin Barrett noted recently at CampaignTech East, didn't render correctly on mobile phones and on webmail.
Likewise, Ted Cruz's campaign site had some technical problems that could have given potential donors the sense that their credit card transactions weren't secure. And don't forget the "Jew for Rand Paul" social media graphic.
All three campaigns quickly cleared up these technical issues, though some of their other decisions gave Internet trolls plenty to cackle over. For instance, Clinton's distinctive logo sparked a graphic designer to create an entire "Hillvetica" font in parody. In this case, the campaign got in on the joke itself, while also earning Internet cred for a clever "404" page that used an old photo of Bill, Hillary and Chelsea with someone in a duck costume.
Stumbling Over Domain Names
The most visible presidential campaign launch problems involved something really basic — domain names. It's long been conventional wisdom to buy the .org version of your candidate's or organization's name along with the .com, and Carly Fiorina's campaign shows us why.
Even though she was edging toward her run for months, an activist was able to buy CarlyFiorina.org and use it to hit her over her management of Hewlett-Packard. How about 30,000 frowny faces, one for each person laid off under her tenure? Ouch.
Cruz also suffered a domain-name slap, though the person in question is also named Ted Cruz. He'd bought TedCruz.com years ago for his own use and adapted it for political purposes, lately to deliver a message supporting President Obama and immigration reform. No wonder Rand Paul reportedly paid $100,000 for RandPaul.com.
Now, a campaign can't possibly buy every potential domain name that might be turned against them, leaving properties like ReadyForCruz.com to be snapped up by Democratic activists for their own amusement. And Fiorina pulled off at least a small act of domain jiu jitsu with her campaign registering HillaryClinton.net (which now redirects to the Fiorina campaign site).
In a different twist, Vermont’s Bernie Sanders avoided these problems because of a supporter who realized that BernieSanders.com was available and bought it on the senator's behalf. His payment for transferring it to the campaign? Getting to meet his hero in person. What a mensch.
Hire a Graphic Designer Early
Republican digital staffer Andrew Abdel-Malik made an interesting observation at CampaignTech East last month: campaigns may want to hire (or contract with) a graphic designer early in the cycle. Why? Because of the need for visual content such as digital ads and social media graphics in the current communications environment. Also important? A photographer/videographer, if you can afford one.
New Conservative Petition Site Woos List-Builders
Many of us in the digital space have wondered about the absence of a petition site like Care2 or Change.org that caters specifically to conservative causes. Ask no more: StandUnited has launched to host Right-leaning petitions, with over 190,000 signatures so far.
Sponsored petitions on Care2 have been a boon to Democratic list builders for years, and while Change.org works both sides of the aisle, a conservative-only petition site would seem to have a natural audience of Republican campaigns seeking to raise an online fundraising base. Of course, as with any online community, achieving a critical mass of participants will be key.
Going Native with Facebook Video
For years, communicators have posted videos to YouTube and then posted links to those videos to Facebook. But with Facebook apparently embarked on a campaign to take over content distribution on the Internet, we now need to consider posting our videos directly (natively, as it’s known) to Facebook if we want them seen on the biggest social media property on the planet.
Judging from research carried out by political social media gurus like Beth Becker, Facebook will put your videos in front of as many as ten times more people if you post them directly to the site than if you post a YouTube link. Of course, most of the time you'll still want to post to YouTube as well because of the video hosting site's prominence in Google and its own large audience. Either way, it’s more work for digital staff.
Colin Delany is founder and editor of the award-winning Epolitics.com and a 15-year veteran of online politics.