January 26th, 2010
Scott Brown’s victory in last week’s Massachusetts Senate election has gotten plenty of Republicans fired up about their online prospects in the 2010, not least two of the folks behind his internet strategy — Mindy Finn and Patrick Ruffini of EngageDC, who scored a real business-development coup with this piece in Sunday’s Washington Post Outlook section. Their basic point: that Dems have no monopoly on the internet, words that have appeared many times (and with much forboding) in the pages of Epolitics.com.
But for our purposes, the details of Brown’s online campaign are just as interesting as any macro-trends it embodied, and for those we can now turn to two insider pieces written by staff at the Prosper Group. One looks at Brown’s broader internet outreach plan, starting with this excellent observation about the incremental nature of online politics and the difference between an online presence and an online campaign:
The curse of Obama’s 2008 campaign (for online strategists) has come in the form of candidates and campaigns who think that a sharp website and a Facebook page should somehow automatically generate online momentum. In contrast, just as it did for Obama, it took Brown months of tireless campaigning with little result (both on and offline) to create the inertia needed to generate $12 million in donations, over 100,000 Facebook supporters, over 10,000 people enrolled in our “Call from Home” program, over 215,000 email subscribers and 7,529 text message subscribers.
Some other great points in the overview article: the Brown campaign respected the “web guy” and didn’t stick him in the basement (sound familiar?), they understood that social media is called SOCIAL media for a reason, they realized that content is king and created plenty of it, and they finally catered to their audience with a website and a web presence focused on interaction with supporters.
Next, turn to the Group’s detailed analysis of Brown’s last-minute online fundraising blitz/moneybomb. One critical observation about supporter motivation:
I’m also fully convinced that without the public goal we set, the campaign may have raised just a few hundred thousand dollars and been unable to raise the money we needed in the final days to win. Setting a goal (and surpassing it) opened the floodgates to more support online as the moneybomb went viral. The campaign’s motivated supporters spread the word and insisted we could win.
Get ‘em excited and give ‘em a goal to reach — keys to getting people off their butts and working hard. And in this case, that work paid off after the immediate ask had expired:
Due to the success of the moneybomb, the contributions kept coming and put us on par with the millions being dropped into the state by the DSCC and the SEIU. We raised another $1.3 million on the 12th and had a day at $1.7 million in the same week.
From a Dem point of view, ouch! Of course, we’re talking about a special election, meaning that contributions could flood in from around the country without competition from other candidates, but note that Brown’s opponent saw no similar influx of cash — or enthusiasm. Political victories are usually about a candidate and a moment, but a good campaign never hurts. In this case, it may have made all the difference in the prospects of a president’s first term.