A political campaign is a complex beast: from messaging to fundraising to field, campaign organizers have a huge number of parts to build, integrate and coordinate. The digital side is no exception, particularly at the presidential level. Staff have to build and maintain a web presence, social media profiles, a supporter database and mass-email system, an influencer outreach program, online advertising and much more.
But their most important task right now is an easy one to say but a long slog in practice: list-building. The people on a campaign’s supporter list (in practice, its email list) are its future donors, volunteers and ambassadors, and recruiting, engaging and mobilizing them is key to almost any campaign’s online success. Candidates like Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, Scott Walker and Marco Rubio start with a natural advantage, since they’ve been building national supporter lists for years, while someone like Carly Fiorina will have to build from a smaller base.
Hillary Clinton benefits from the Clinton name, of course, since it’s a natural draw on places like Facebook. But she also starts with a base of nearly four million email addresses gathered by Ready For Hillary, which wisely focused its resources on email rather than social media — email acquisition usually requires a campaign to seek voters out, while a social media following for someone as well known as Clinton can build itself to a large extent.
HOW do campaigns build a list? By any and every means necessary — online ads, in-person recruiting at campaign events, social media content, and TV and radio ads that always include a mention of the website are just a start. The important thing to remember is that — barring a sudden surge of attention, like the one Bernie Sanders received when he launched — list-building is incremental. It’s trench warfare, not blitzkrieg! A day wasted on the recruiting front now, even many months before the first primaries, is an opportunity wasted. Smart campaigns have their marching orders.
Look for more here on list-building soon.