How to Use Digital Leverage for Campaign Success

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My introduction to modern digital campaigning started in 2007 due to a single comment. Responding to a reporter’s question, Senator John McCain said that when he needed to find something on the Internet, he let his wife Cindy look it up on “The Google” It was with a sense of dread that I decided to check out his opponent's campaign.

What I discovered lead me, a lifelong Republican, to work with Senator Obama's campaign. My decision had nothing to do with allegiance to a political party or ideology. It was the realization that John McCain was looking out his rearview mirror, while Barack Obama not only had his eyes firmly focused out the windshield, he also had a busload of supporters onboard and his foot firmly on the gas.

I vow to remain a Republican until the day they pry my Voter ID out of my cold dead hand. I believe someone has to stick around to clean up after this party. However, in the future, I intend to support candidates who commit to change instead of maintaining the status quo. I learned a lot during that campaign. It's time to put all of it to work.

It’s election time here in Jacksonville. Whether you are a candidate for office or simply support one, what follows is everything I know about using digital leverage to win.

First Things First

Candidates, political pundits and even the Supervisor of Elections (SOE) always start with a focus on the money. Candidates track donations while pundits rank who raised the most money. Visit the SOE online and you will see a host of financial reports. While it’s true that financing a radio or TV spot costs money, and requires both time and effort, using the Internet to extend your reach requires, almost no money.

The only thing more important than building a war chest is building a Volunteer Army. If your supporters lack deep pockets or your candidate lacks name recognition or you lack traditional party support, building an army of committed volunteers is the first priority. When a volunteer publishes a post, a picture, or a video the campaign can gain hundreds of new supporters. With TV and radio the best you can do is talk at voters. The Internet allows you to engage in a conversation with them. Each conversation builds a relationship that transforms a spectator into a loyal supporter. Start by building an Army. Donations will follow.

Plan the Attack

Once you have an Army, it’s time to deploy your forces. There is nothing quite as amazing as a new recruit. They are on fire, will even walk through fire, unless you let the fire go out. Give your volunteers something to do immediately. Make sure you point them in the right direction. Traditional campaigns are often obsessed with managing the message. Modern campaigns understand the power of authenticity and allow their supporters to speak in their own words on behalf of their candidate champion.

When a candidate tells you how great they are, it’s bragging. When a supporter says it, that’s testifying. Supporters don't need much in the way of directions. Ask them to remain positive and use their own words. Ask them to share why they support this candidacy and how it makes them feel to be a part the change that’s coming. It’s helpful if they can share a photo or short video. Make sure to give them extra credit for including the official #hashtag. Here are some details you can use to leverage the power of social media.

The Power of Social Media

Photos

You could use your own camera to capture photos during a campaign appearance. Better yet, let supporters use theirs. It allows them to invest in your success. They get to use their photo to publish a post on their profile, which will be seen by their followers.

Hashtag

We are talking about hashtag singular. The use of a single tag increases your leverage. If you use 2 tags, it splits the impact 50-50. The idea that the more hashtags the merrier is a myth. Develop a hashtag that is easy to say, spell, and type. Start your tag with an action verb, iike #Vote. Add the candidates last name to make it unique. Before you make it the official campaign hashtag, test it in the real world. Tags that use first names are often recycled from other candidates. Visit the social media platform of your supporters. Type the proposed hashtag into the search box. Press Enter to see who shows up in the feed. If you are lucky, it won’t be a convicted felon, but you need to know that up front.

Summary

The team at Leverage Unlimited has a whole bunch of tips and tactics to help campaigns create digital leverage. I was asked for my advice just the other day. When I agreed to publish this post, the person said, ”You are not going to share this with my competition are you?”

It doesn’t matter if they know. The tips above will only work if you already have at least the beginnings of a following. These tips simply won’t work for a candidate with deep pockets who practices negative campaigning.

Good luck on your campaign!