David, Goliath and social media

Hillary Clinton appears to be the all but assured Democratic nominee for President.  Her announcement is allegedly days away and most polls have her leading Republican candidates while absolutely crushing any opposition in the Democratic race.  So, she’s the nominee, right?

Not so fast – there are at least two potential Clinton alternatives – former Virginia Senator Jim Webb and former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley.  They are each seeking to be the Clinton alternative and have clearly set up a David vs. Goliath battle.  Can they steal the nomination from the former Secretary and Senator?

Sure, anything can happen, and Secretary Clinton has certainly fallen to underdogs before.  How can O’Malley and Webb get there?

Digital will, without a doubt, play a huge role if they are going to make it.  After all, digital can level the playing field, and social media can provide for an incredible expansive reach at a minimal budget.  So, what steps can either of these underdogs take if they are going to steal the nomination?

  • Invest heavily – fast: As the recent Senate election between Mark Warner and Jon Gillespie showed, digital spend can provide more bang for the buck, and this is particularly true when one candidate has a massive financial advantage.
  • Target right: When you don’t have a ton of money, your dollars have to count more.  To that end, the targeting has to be right; paid ads and social media efforts have to target the demographics that make the most sense – broad promotional efforts risk wasting money.
  • Know your vendors: Even the targeting above won’t be enough; to fully take advantage of the power of social media, any underdog has to invest in specific programs that will tie registered voters to their Facebook profiles; yes, such sites do exist. These vendors must be used by campaigns to make sure that the right ads are seen by the right people.
  • Custom content…: Related to the above – targeted voters have to see ads that are relevant to them.  For example, if a candidate is pro-choice but the voter likes an anti-choice page, it obviously makes no sense to show them an advertisement which extols the candidate’s positions on abortion.  It would make sense, however, to target them based on another page that they liked – for example, their position on education based on the voter liking their child’s school district.
  • …geared towards real world action: Liking a candidate’s post on Facebook doesn’t mean a damn if it doesn’t result in real world action. The content of any advertisement has to be linked back to real world action – voting, volunteering or donating.
  • Track the data: The degree of sophistication that voter databases have now is simply incredible, and I’d be willing to bet money that software exists that will allow campaigns to track when a voter so much as likes a post.  In an era of “big data,” that information has to be tracked based on the message, content and targeting of an advertisement itself.  If someone likes enough ads, for example, they should be called to volunteer.  If someone is liking ads on a certain issue only (say gun control, for example), then they should see ads that are specifically geared around those issues.

A campaign David cannot match the campaign Goliath shot for shot.  Instead, they have to make sure that their shots count more – and the data gleaned from social media can make that happen.  Any underdog who does not take advantage of this medium is a fool.

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