Features

The Road to the White House in 140 Characters or Less

Written on
Aug 11, 2011 
Author
Tony Hoskins  |

ADOTAS - Get ready for the race within the race! The 2012 Presidential Election won’t just be about issues and political backgrounds, voting history and traditional media ads. This coming campaign season is all about digital communication strategy. Chances are good that the candidates that master utilizing social media and mobile will find themselves victorious come November 2012.

During the 2008 presidential election, a digital communication strategy was a novelty. Obama was the clear innovator with his strong Facebook following, video game ads and SMS codes.

Social media, and certainly mobile, has moved forward at an alarming pace in the last three years. What was novel and a differentiator in 2008 is now old news. Today’s voter is better connected than ever and expectations for today’s political candidates are far greater than in 2008. Today’s White House hopeful must deploy a digital arsenal of social and mobile experiences that should include a combination of communities, videos, tweets, posts, apps, games, awards and badges.

It’s not enough to simply create a Facebook page and open a Twitter account. (That would be so 2008!) The 2012 election will most likely be won by the team that demonstrates the greatest ability to build a comprehensive strategy using the tools that best recognize and effectively leverage the expectations of today’s voters.

Candidates for the 2012 presidential race would be wise to consider the following points when crafting their social and mobile strategies.

Authenticity. Embracing staged or gimmicky approaches will fail. Newt Gingrich and Sarah Palin have both been criticized for breaking “social media etiquette” by appearing less than authentic. Nothing frustrates the social media universe more than being asked for questions and comments and never receiving responses to them.

Social on Steroids. With the White House on the line, you can bet a digitally savvy election team will be utilizing the full power of all that social media can offer to not only engage, but to educate and empower, their voters.

Facebook alone has 150 million U.S. users old enough to vote. You’ll see the arsenal, providing multiple touch points via web and mobile. More touch points provide more opportunities to collect data, and the collection and mining of data will play a significant role in 2012.

Apps, Apps and More Apps. According to Nielson Mobile, 83% of mobile phone users are registered voters. Rest assured that digitally-savvy campaign teams are aware of that and will be taking full advantage by providing mobile experiences that fill the 30-second to 30-minute window that smartphones and tablets provide so well. Look for apps that break down the parties and the issues.

Look for tablet app experiences fully integrated with Facebook and Twitter that provide a one-stop “Election 2012 HQ” containing everything a hungry-for-information voter would want to know, share, re-tweet, like or post.

Dynamic Infographics. Nothing breaks down a complicated playing field like an infographic. Voters in 2012 will perhaps be the most educated ever on candidates and issues. The voter hasn’t changed, but information is now more available and social and mobile tools provide the perfect medium to consume data in a way that makes sense and takes less time. All of this will come together to break down the choices into easily digestible bites of information.

Reward-Based Mobile and Social Gaming. It all started in Kindergarten with our first gold star—we love to be recognized and rewarded! Mobile and social gaming have exploded since 2008, and Americans have proven to respond well to laddering-up in a community and being recognized for participation.

Look to see 2012 campaign teams exploiting our desire to be recognized by providing election games we can win, party event check-ins, unlocking unique content through usage and participation and badges, badges and more badges!

Fundraising 2.0. The cornerstone of any social strategy is building a community. Once you have the community you can use it for so many things—including fundraising! In addition, your community won’t only help with raising money but with saving that money as well. With an established community, you now have the ability to spread messages at a faster pace and at a fraction of the cost.

Social media significantly lowers the cost of reaching each voter and lends itself to grass-roots campaigns poised for expansion. Of course, whoever has the biggest community has the most influence and farthest reach. Consider President Obama’s Facebook community of nearly 22 million. (The next closest presidential candidate is Sarah Palin with just over 3 million). Think of the opportunity and power President Obama has with exposure to that size of a crowd.

Transparency. Social media provides an interactive “Town Hall” forum that enables candidates to address the issues and communicate with the voters. However, initiating the conversation with the voters in a public forum could also invite confrontation and criticism from the masses. The successful candidate will engage honestly with the community and address ALL comments, both positive and negative.

On Sept. 26, 1960, Senator John Kennedy of Massachusetts and Vice President Richard Nixon squared off in the first-ever televised presidential debate. Unlike radio before it, TV brought a new way for voters to experience the candidates and introduced this new stage for Presidential hopefuls to showcase their positions on the issues and connect with the American voters. Who won in 1960? The candidate who best exploited the benefits uniquely provided by a televised broadcast.

Fast forward to today – the candidates for the 2012 presidential election are presented with the same opportunity. Whoever can strategically exploit the benefits uniquely provided by social networks and mobile devices will meet the voting public where they live and speak to more of them. Increased exposure is what elections are all about!

And that’s the only guarantee: A carefully crafted digital strategy, incorporating appropriate social Media components and integrated mobile experiences will increase exposure but will not guarantee victory. Increased exposure means more people will know who you are, what you’ve done and where you stand on the issues. It’s on the candidate to inspire and it’s up to the people to vote.





As principal for POP, Tony Hoskins provides strategic direction and facilitates the implementation of interactive services for global consumer brands like Target, Microsoft and Epson. For 10 years, Tony has been on the executive team at one of the largest privately held interactive agencies in Seattle. POP is 120 full-time employees with offices in Seattle and New York. Prior to POP, Tony worked for various groups at Microsoft. Prior to joining the technology world, Tony worked as a producer for local and national television commercials and film projects, where he supervised production
activities for several key national brands including Chevy, Acura and
T-mobile.

Tony served two terms as President of the Board for the Puget Sound chapter of the American Marketing Association (PSAMA) and is a member of the Association of Professional Design Firms (APDF).

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