By Patrick Skarr, Account Supervisor
The ever growing collection of campaign signs on the corners of busy intersections can mean only one thing, the election is just a few weeks away. So in the coming weeks as candidates and campaign volunteers sneak out to litter our streets with signs of campaign strength and support, too many are overlooking the easier tools of voter engagement available at their fingertips.
National campaigns are refining their skills and enhance the weapons of propaganda, in traditional, non-traditional and social media spheres. Google, Twitter, Facebook and eVoter are several companies focused on staking their claim as helpful and efficient tools for campaigns.
The successes and failures of this cycle will provide strategists with a wealth of data to shape future decisions on campaign budgets, messaging strategies and how best to engage the electorate for their particular race.
Before the first ballot of 2012 was cast, Google launched their election center to provide citizens, media, political scientists and candidates with information that only Google can provide. Its trends tracker is providing information on an evolving basis about what citizens are searching, what they care about and the volume of searches about specific candidates.
Candidates, volunteers and friends of campaigns, shouldn’t overlook the powerful tools they have at their disposal through the analytics provided by companies like Google and Facebook.
Local candidates, often self-funding their campaigns are reluctant to accept the reality that they will need to make a few mistakes along the way. If you’ve put your spring break fund into your mailer, you’ll certainly be upset if it is a flop. But, local campaigns need to embrace the online tools available to them, and engage early and often with their voting electorate.
In my opinion, Google’s Ad Words product is by far the easiest and broadest tool available for use. I personally enjoy this product because it also serves as a monitor of what the electorate is thinking, by way of what they are searching. Through the analytics provided, you can also quickly and efficiently test your campaign messages.
Polling is a wonderful tool for candidates. You can test messages in the field, determine an opponent’s weakness, or even push a poll to help shape a narrative. However, polling, done right is wonderfully expensive. So expensive, that it prohibits a number of campaigns, at the local, regional and district level, from commissioning them on a regular basis.
Through use of voter engagement tools provided online, the ability to monitor, track and spread your campaign message to the masses has never been easier.
Traditionalists, campaign aides and pollsters, will argue there are ample flaws with simply taking the data from Google Insights for Search or Twitter, and drawing any major conclusions. I agree with them.
Search trends, the number of Facebook friends and Twitter mentions do not directly translate into likely voter behavior. Staking your campaign on an online approach only is not a good idea, but then again, any campaign that has only one strategy, doesn’t have a strategy at all.
Embracing these technologies should be a complement to any campaign’s strategy, regardless of the office they are running for. Campaigns and candidates need to find space in their budget. To be successful in 2012 a candidate needs to have a coherent plane for online and social media based voter engagement.