The outcome of the 2016 election still haunts us but it offers many insights and indicators into what digital campaigning will look like in the 2018 election and beyond.
Among the biggest lessons following 2016? The importance of connecting with voters through authentic communication and organizing on digital channels.
Here are three of the most important trends we’ve seen.
A Mobile Environment
No surprise here. Mobile has been a massive trend for years and it’ll only continue to be more important. 69% of all media time is now spent on smartphones. That’s why, in 2016, HFA built on OFA’s 2012 app and developed an app which individuals could use to read proposals, volunteer, and donate.
Hustle is a peer-to-peer messaging app useful for helping organize volunteers and supporters quickly by sending text messages at scale. It was used by both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders during the 2016 election and campaigns from the highest profile statewide to local candidates are using it in 2018. But like any digital organizing tactic, it needs to be authentic and build a relationship with supporters. Otherwise, the possibility is there for it to be used against you. Don’t forget: Just a few weeks ago, Republicans impersonated Beto O’Rouke’s campaign via text to smear him.
Making donations through mobile will increase. For campaigns, an ever-increasing number of ActBlue contributions are from supporters using Apple Pay or Express Lane, which lets donors contribute with just one click. Campaign marketers are going to have to think of mobile for practically every channel. We wrote more about how you can optimize for mobile here.
Peer-to-peer texting and mobile donations are obviously not the only innovations we see in the mobile space. Tech startups and companies (including Microsoft, which played a role in bringing mobility to the ballot counting process in Iowa) are leveraging mobile more every day and providing tools for campaigns. Google announced earlier this year its Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) project, which aims to create a new interactive email experience. We wrote about Google’s effort here.
Acceleration of existing technology
Technology is accelerating and it will affect how campaigns invest in and leverage digital.
The Economist Intelligence Unit surveyed top marketing execs on how they foresaw technologies evolving by 2020. There’s plenty of opportunities and predictions, but lots of fresh technologies that we are still rapidly learning.
Personalization technology is really coming into its own. For example, geo-targeting allows politicians to reach specific voters without spending tons of money — that’s powerful enough and widely in use today. Can you imagine all of this combined with one of the hottest topics in tech, AI?
Campaigns will learn so much about you as machine learning technologies become dominant. Expect even more personalization — and if you can, start thinking about ways to personalize to a greater extent your existing digital programming. Can you leverage survey data to send tailored emails? Can you target based on location or activist history? Think about sending less blanket communications, and more targeted ones.
Intuitive content marketing
Speaking of smart content, better understanding audiences and getting the right ingredients to deliver effective messages will take the front seat. That means venturing away from traditional communication.
Native advertising will become the alternative most chosen, and politicians will need to work harder to deliver content viewed as trustworthy and…authentic.
The Peoria Project tested 70 different videos and found that creating an original video with precise messaging or authenticity can beat out videos with high production value.
The study also found that real people telling their own stories is the most impactful. This generally meant content that featured a single person speaking in their own voice and expressing emotion. Authenticity is the name of the game as campaigns and marketers continue to intuitively learn more about their audiences.
Digital needs to be integrated into everything a campaign does. It’s not something that can be siloed off — everything our voters do in their day to day is rapidly going online, and campaigns must follow suit and ensure that their campaign has a digital ethos in every department and team. Your digital team and consultant needs to be involved in every discussion and decision (and everyone on a campaign or within an organization should consider themselves a digital ambassador).
As everything continues to become more digital, more mobile, and tailored to the interests of an audience, we expect to see growth in peer-to-peer conversations online.