Guest article! Aiden Livingston is the Marketing and Communications Director for Call2Action, a company I’ve been helping out here and there for the past couple of years. Call2Action focuses on leveraging video for advocacy and list-building, so this topic is a natural. See also Laura Packard’s recent piece detailing how social media can grow your email list.
Online video is the most powerful tool out there for gaining new supporters, yet it is also the most under-utilized. Often busy campaign managers are reluctant to learn the nuances of video campaign strategy and end up avoiding the topic altogether. It’s like having a Ferrari in your garage but not driving it because you can’t be bothered to learn to use a stick shift.
Online video gives us the chance to show another side of the candidate. A good example is the video blog series created by Mitt Romney’s “body man”, Garrett Jackson. The cheaply produced videos he films on his iPad are managing to accomplish a nearly impossible task: to humanize Romney. He probably would have had an easier time humanizing the iPad itself, as it has more character by nature, and, unlike Romney, Republican voters actually like it. But despite all obstacles, the short video clips are giving online viewers a glimpse at the day-to-day Romney, showing that, contrary to popular belief, there is a real man in there with daily struggles and emotions.
Video time! NWLC’s “My Health is Not Up for Debate” reproductive rights campaign has just come out with a new video, and guess who has a “starring” role! I get to be a pharmacist protesting, well, take a look and see for yourself:
Good times! Perhaps I’ll fire up that acting career…Oscar nominating committee, are you watching? Hmmm, maybe I’ll stick to my guns here — digital politics has a special drama of its own that’s captured my heart. Or what’s left of it, anyway.
Check out this Obama campaign page, your destination if you try to unsubscribe from his email list (via Peter Pasi). Clever, eh? Other than navigation links, here’s the entire text:
“I’m voting for the President in 2012—I just get too many emails.”
That’s what a lot of folks who end up on this page say.
Here’s why we think you should stick around: If you want to see the President re-elected in 2012, you should stay looped in on the efforts to make it happen.
Just looking to get fewer emails? We can send you campaign updates only once a week or so. Be sure to select your preferred frequency option below.
And it’s accompanied by a bouncy video designed to make supporters remember why they liked Obama in the first place. Great idea all around! A lot of people drop off email lists because they tire of the volume of messages, not because they’re weary of the cause. This page is a great example for groups that are trying to reduce their overal unsubscribe rate — give followers a choice! But also, remind people why they want to STAY involved. List-building is usually a game of incremental victories and losses — trench warfare, not blitzkrieg — and cutting your loss rate by even a small fraction helps.
One key takeaway from CampaignTech: advertising inventory seems to be selling out fast, particularly in those eternal tossup states like Florida and Ohio. According to various conference-goers, campaigns, party committees, independent expenditure groups, PACs and unions are busily reserving television time months in advance. The same is apparently true for coveted digital spaces such as the big battleground-state newspaper sites and even Politico.com (I heard Politico’s frontpage is already completely unavailable during at least one of the party conventions, and it didn’t go cheap).
Television ad slots have been scarce in contested states during election seasons before, but the combination of big-money super-PACs and the expectation that both presidential campaigns will spend heavily seems to be driving political actors to reserve time much earlier than usual. And in what may be a first, they’re not just reserving TV time — many campaigns and outside groups are also buying up online real estate months in advance. Facebook, Google and other large properties are lining up big chunks of ad space for those willing to pay, and CampaignGrid’s Jordan Lieberman predicted during the conference that digital video ad inventory (on YouTube and Hulu, for instance) for the Fall will sell out completely in 15+ battleground states by August. Others seemed to regard that estimate as conservative!
In part, I suspect that the early online ad buying is a hedge against TV time being unavailable (and against people’s use of DVRs to avoid commercials), but it does also reflect the sense that digital ad space has become valuable on its own — online ads aren’t just an “also-ran” this year. At CampaignTech, I was impressed by the general level of online ad knowledge displayed in panel discussions, both by panelists and by audience-members during Q&A. In this year’s elections, that knowledge is going to go to work. The big question: how will voters react to an advertising bombardment? What’ll be the online equivalent of Tivo’ing shows to skip the ads?
[Thanks to everybody who came to my presentation at CampaignTech! This is an updated version of what I originally posted last year, now reflecting changes for Facebook's new Timeline.]
More than 66% of adults are connected to one or more social media platforms (via Mashable). Note that Facebook’s numbers for “active users” in the United States work out to be about 50% of the population. (via New York Times) But only 13% of online users internationally are on Twitter, and Google+ etc. are much less than this.
None of these stats guarantee that users check the sites every day, or even that they will see your content if you post it right before they log on. Facebook uses an algorithm to determine what content it shows users, called “EdgeRank” (more via TechCrunch). On average, Facebook says only 16% of your fans see your content (via Huffington Post). And with all social media websites, even ones that don’t filter, the flow of new content is so steady that your information may be quickly washed away. This is why it is critical to always be using social media to capture more email addresses – then you can control the flow of communication to your supporters, rather than a for-profit company with constantly changing rules.
So how do you go about getting email addresses from your social media fans?
You get the idea: it’s an extension of the classic observation that someone needs to see an advertisement X number of times (I’ve always heard “five”) before it registers. So if you’re trying to influence decision-makers, put your message in front of the right eyes in as many places as possible. Don’t forget to include people-power! All of the above channels work even better when your lobbyists or citizen volunteers stop by to chat about the same issues.
Also, think about the tools that will resonate most at the right times of day: Greenberger talked about “following” influencers around Washington with advertising. For instance, while 8-9 AM is a great time for radio, particularly on stations like WTOP news, the same period is bad for internet advertising, since most staff aren’t at their desks yet. Conversely, 9-11 AM is great for online ads. Lunchtime? Think mobile. Evening? Back to online, to catch staffers watching TV and browsing the web at the same time. A major advantage to a time-centered, multi-angle approach: you’re only spending money on a particular channel when it’s likely to give the best results.
Peter Greenberger made a great observation today on a CampaignTech panel about reach inside-the-Beltway “influentials.” Peter’s now with Twitter (he was previously at Google), but he got his political start on a Clinton campaign in the ’90s. Back in those “War Room” days, “rapid response” meant that a campaign responded to something that happened in the morning by the time the evening news aired — basically, within the same news cycle.
Now, rapid response is measured in seconds, a development driven in part by Twitter. Peter used the Hilary Rosen micro-scandal as an example: within seconds of Rosen saying on cable news that Ann Romney had never worked a day in her life, people were talking about it on Twitter. Soon thereafter the Romney campaign jumped into the Twitter-frenzy, in part by deploying Ann Romney as a microblogger. Obama advisor David Axelrod and other Democrats followed, all frantically trying to spin the story to their advantage. Why did it matter? Because reporters, bloggers and activists were watching, and the conversation was forming an important part of backdrop of politics for the week.
Fighter pilots have a saying: “speed is life.” The same is true in digital political communications, and it’s becoming ever moreso. The lesson? Respond in real-time or as close to it as you can, or you might find that it’s as though you never replied at all.
Of course, all three are still available here on Epolitics.com as free PDFs, and as you can imagine, the free version of the new 2012 e-book is out-”selling” the $2.99 Amazon version by a factor of ten. Still, it’s great to have this extra channel through which people can find the books, and a dollar here and a dollar there will eventually add up to enough to help offset some of the various promotional costs and such. And of course, the real benefit of an e-book like this isn’t the money, it’s the reputation-building. Kindle-users, enjoy!
After thinking about what I run into with campaigns all the time, here are some additions to the book you might think about:
How to Evaluate Tools
We have a lot of choice with CRMs and the like these days, and it’s not always obvious which is best. So guidelines on what to look for are helpful. Things that are important to me are:
tracking, testing (random splits, easy a/b tests, good metrics)
good targeting abilities and advanced queries (recency [ie: people who've been active in the last month], geographic, donor levels, and complex combinations)
ease and flexibility of setting up email and website templates
ease of setting up daisy chain actions and integrate sharing options and other things on thank you pages, after a user takes action
flexibility of the system (can I make many different signup pages, flexible surveys/questionnaires, donate forms, etc…).
Basically, can a CRM handle the normal, day-to-day online organizing tactics like flexible and multiple signup pages, social sharing, and testing/tracking? (And, keep in mind that you can use different systems for different parts — one for email and signup pages, one for online fundraising, etc… For how to keep those working together, see below.)