Five Lessons for Advocates from Obama’s 2012 Digital Campaign

Our friends over at SalsaLabs have launched a new online advocacy how-to site called Advocacy Unleashed, which sounds a little like a bad movie sequel about a vengeful community organizer but is actually a very nice collection of articles about our favorite field, digital politics. Definitely swing by the site, and if you’re looking for a place to start, check out this contribution straight from the e.politics bunker, a ditty we’re calling “Five Lessons for Advocates from Obama’s 2012 Digital Campaign.” Here’s a brief sample of what you’ll get:

3. Start Recruiting Early

A year before the 2012 general election, Obama’s staff had already held over a million one-on-one discussions with 2008 volunteers, aiming to bring them back into the fold. They were also already running acquisition ads on sites across the web, focused on list-building (they ultimately ran ads on some 5000 different websites, all screened by the legal team for appropriateness, in addition to plenty of Facebook and Google ads).

Advocacy organizations occasionally benefit from a rush of supporters, particularly when they’re in the news or under attack (think Planned Parenthood over the past couple of years). But most of the time, list-building is a gradual process — it’s trench warfare, not blitzkrieg. The earlier you start, the more people you’ll be able to reach and to recruit. And since a good source of new supporters is typically your existing fans, the sooner you start enlisting people, the sooner you’ll be able to tap THEIR friends. In other words, since we’re talking about exponential growth, you want to start bending the curve as early as you can.

There’s plenty more where that came from, with a particular emphasis on goals, metrics and focus — less about the details, more about the Big Picture. For some Obama-campaign nuts and bolts advice, look for the next Campaigns & Elections Technology Bytes column, which I submitted last week and which should be live soon. Or, check out our first two Obama Pro Tips, here and here. More to come.


Written by
Colin Delany
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