Campaigns today are looking past traditional means of mobilizing voters to meet the digital age ‒ Facebook posts can also impact how people vote. This is especially important for progressive campaigns hoping to engage the rising American electorate: 88% of millennials and 74% of minority voters use Facebook on a daily basis. Campaigns must learn how to reach their target universe in the digital age of politics.
So what kind of content best drives engagement on social media? Videos, videos, and more videos!
Short, compelling videos ‒ not wordy posts ‒ have the biggest impact on social media. Facebook posts with videos attract 3x more likes than text-only ‒ and people gaze 5x longer at videos than static content. Campaigns can optimize voter outreach online with a high volume of low-cost videos. Remember that the best videos are those built for social media. As Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg put it, “the most effective video ads are really built for social.”
Most voters are skeptical by nature. For proof, one need only look at the general approval ratings of politicians. The key to activating voters today is to reach them in a way that engenders trust, support, and the sense that they are being spoken to individually. The best way for campaigns to build this sort of rapport is to have volunteers introduce the candidate to their friends and families.
The world has changed drastically in the last ten years, and if your vision of how to best use campaign volunteers hasn’t changed, you won’t be winning many elections.
Campaigns rightly think of engaging voters as a game of numbers. The most successful strategies and tactics contact the most voters, turn those voters into volunteers, and leverage those volunteers into even more voter-contacts. The goal is to reach as many constituents as possible. Data has proven that the best way to maximize outreach is to connect with voters where they are; today, that means we need to reach them on their cell phones and on social media.
Campaigns that want to expand their voting base and turnout need to think about their digital volunteering infrastructure. Campaigns that don’t have this sort of infrastructure need to build one (we can help with that), and those that do have this sort of infrastructure should work to improve and scale it (we can help with that, too).
Widespread distrust means that campaigns can no longer rely on earned media to deliver their message to voters.
Depending on who you ask, media distrust is the logical and appropriate conclusion to decades of biased reporting, the result of an ever atomizing media landscape, which emphasizes confirmation bias or, possibly, a blend of both.
Regardless of the cause, in this media environment, campaigns need a new strategy — particularly if they want to reach voters outside their base.
I worked on Hillary Clinton’s campaign as a field organizer in Michigan. Before the election, I was asked by more than a few Michigan voters about an ad running on their Facebook timelines: a South Park-like animation citing Clinton’s now infamous “super-predator” line from the 90s. Brad Parscale, Trump’s social media director,showed Bloomberg this ad in the days before November 8, adding that it was part of a broader effort of dark ads aimed at African American voters in Michigan and beyond. Our team wasn’t sure what to say ‒ we didn’t have a commensurate response to counteract these efforts online.
This was the “major voter suppression operations” a senior official for the Trump campaign described before the election, and it was part of the reason Trump won by just 12,000 votes in Michigan. The Trump campaign was releasing a flood of fake news, ads, and twitter bots online, but the Democrats failed to build a robust digital counterweight.
I would not have wanted Hillary’s team to confront bots and fake news with their own, and this is not the answer for the Democrats moving forward. Republicans have always focused their campaigns on advertisements over the airwaves, so it made sense for the new frontier of Republican campaigning to be attack ads online. For decades, Democrats have won elections by harnessing the power of their volunteers through door-to-door canvassing and grassroots movements. The time has come for Democrats to bring their strengths online.
Welcome to the Tuesday Company blog: 21st Century Field Organizing!
Maybe this world is new to you; maybe you manage a small campaign and are looking for an edge; maybe you ran a successful digital organizing campaign at a local level and are trying to figure out how to scale your work to a statewide election. (If so – congrats on the promotion!)
No matter where you are in this process, the Tuesday Company can help you improve your digital campaign infrastructure, so we can all help get the right people elected.
We often use euphemisms to describe voting–both the act itself and the work that goes into getting others to vote. We call it exercising our civic duty; we call it participating in democracy; we call it GOTV operations. Occasionally, we slip and call it field work, a more accurate etymological reference to the hard labor of tending to the delicate chore of growing something meaningful.