What the 2016 Election Can Teach Marketers About Using Digital Media


Few will recall another time in American history when a presidential election cycle presented such differing political opinions. And these days, part of the credit for that presentation is surely owed to the political strategists who continually find new and brilliant ways to remind the country of just what is at stake and how their candidate will make the greatest improvement to the situation.

Marketers, Modern Elections and Social Media:
Modern elections wouldn’t be possible without the help of well-established marketing techniques applied to new outlets. President Obama’s 2008 bid for the presidency was the first time we really saw just what the Internet could do for marketing to an audience so massive. His candidacy made social media a standard marketing medium for all presidential hopefuls from that election onward. Obama’s team carefully cultivated social relationships to create a huge network for a grassroots sort of marketing that any marketer could be proud of. Even smaller political elections should be and often are watched closely by marketers because innovation is all around us.

But despite those effective efforts being so well documented, it doesn’t seem that many brands really understand what it means to connect to their base on social media in a way that creates an uproar.

Making Real Engagement Online

When you absolutely, positively need to win over people who are resistant or simply deaf to your message, step one is to get your message in front of them in a medium that they trust. Donald Trump, for instance, has been going gangbusters at it with his Twitter account—so much so that a group of data scientists studied his style to see just what was making him so interesting to his base. One of the things the data scientists came back around to in an interview with NPR is how often he truly engages with his audience and how often he thanks them.

Hillary Clinton’s camp has also been doing this, albeit in a very different way, on Instagram and Snapchat. Photos are a great way to connect visually and create a very solid emotional memory for audiences, Instagram images can be used successfully as marketing pieces if your market is well engaged. It takes a lot of content to keep up this kind of party, however, and it is undoubtedly more work than a few dozen Tweets a week.

Applying 2016 Digital Election Tricks to Your Marketing

Digital marketing is both a blessing and curse—you have more data and the ability to micro-target to audiences that you may have never been able to reach before, but at the same time you have to continually feed the beast or else those close markets will be lost to the candidate with better content. But you can still use some of the tricks the politicos are using to increase your engagement. Think like a politician next time you’re working on a product campaign and see just how much it changes your ability to cultivate the same kind of deeply-coveted brand ambassadors.

Here are a few things to keep in mind:

• Don’t rely only on micro-targeting for sales. Although micro-targeting using social platforms like Facebook can put you in front of that one guy in Wisconsin who likes to eat cheese with his cat, you can’t assume just because he saw your ad that he’s going to come knocking. Instead of relying on micro-targeting to find your loyal brand audience, use it as a means of eliminating people who will absolutely never bite—that lady in California who drinks champagne with her dog, for example. Micro-targeting can be a huge cost saver by eliminating useless impressions, but it’s never a guaranteed hit.

On the other hand, geo targeting undecided consumers (or voters), when approached in the right way, can be a useful and powerful tool in the effort to win (s)elections. Marketers are putting a great deal of resources—financial and otherwise—into reaching out and touching these potential fans via digital media channels–including, but not limited to, Facebook and Google.

• Look beyond Facebook. Remember, there are other places for digital ad spend that aren’t Facebook. Pandora, Snapchat, YouTube and even Google are good alternatives. Don’t forget Facebook—everybody’s there, it’s the biggest pool party on the planet—but don’t stop here, either.

Depending on your demographic, you might even want to explore the dark depths of niche social media sites like Reddit, Vine or Quora. Business to business marketing absolutely belongs on LinkedIn, especially now that Microsoft has been looking to make a big overhaul of the site.

• Digital spend should be only part of your budget. Too many marketers are jumping the ship on traditional forms of marketing too soon, leaving things like cable, radio and print in the dust. Although digital might feel more efficient right now, and it’s certainly the most talked about and most exciting part of the marketing world, there are still people who rely heavily on those traditional forms of media every day.

In early 2016, Pew Research conducted a survey to find out where people were learning about the presidential election. Surprisingly enough, the most commonly named source was cable television news, at 24 percent of respondents. Social media was second, at 14 percent, tied with local television. When it really matters, some part of your market is still looking to get its current event news from television, radio and print, so don’t forget these media channels in your marketing budgets.

No matter who ends up being elected President in 2016, it may be that marketers are really the winners this go-round. After all, the first wholeheartedly executed social media presidential campaign will have given us lots of useable data about how, going forward, to better target and reach our markets, no matter what platform we’re using.


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