Launching a Campaign via Video

April 6, 2011

Three days.  Three important Democratic campaign announcements.  One method.

Campaign 2012 launched into full swing starting April 2 when Congressman Martin Heinrich (D-NM) announced his candidacy to replace the retiring Senator Jeff Bingaman as a U.S. Senator from New Mexico.  Two days later, Americans began their work week with the fully expected announcement from President Barack Obama that he is seeking a second term as President of the United States.  The deluge of Democratic candidate news continued on April 5 when Tim Kaine, former Virginia Governor and current Chairman of the Democratic National Committee, announced his candidacy to replace the retiring Senator Jim Webb as a U.S. Senator from Virginia.

While the races are different, all three candidates eschewed the old methods of announcing a candidacy – such as a press release or press conference – in favor of an approximately two-minute homemade video launched via the Web and social media.

Congressman Heinrich portrayed his family life and illustrated how his upbringing and middle class values make him the ideal candidate to fight for New Mexican working families.  The video was simultaneously launched on his campaign website and Facebook page.

President Obama utilized his reelection campaign introductory video to reenergize the grassroots activism that launched him into the White House.  The video interviews Obama supporters from all over America describing why they support the President and the importance of being involved in the political process.  The video was launched via social media and on the President’s reelection website.

Tim Kaine made his long-awaited campaign announcement by highlighting his work as a city councilman, mayor of Richmond, and Governor of Virginia.  He articulated the achievements Virginia has made in the last two decades to attract business and grow economically while remaining fiscally solvent.  The announcement was posted on Kaine’s campaign website, with a separate Spanish-language version.

These videos represent how candidates are utilizing social media and online channels to define their campaign message and illicit early campaign supporters, volunteers, and donors.  Video announcements allow candidates to easily build an online database and ensure maximum local and national news coverage without the expense or logistical challenges that stem from campaign rallies.


The Ascension of Mobile Tracking

March 7, 2011

Mobile phone tracking garnered extensive media attention this past week when the Chinese government announced it would monitor the locations of residents in Beijing in order to alleviate traffic congestion.[i] The announcement generated condemnation from privacy groups and reignited concerns among Internet and mobile users on the safety of their personal information.

In much less publicized announcements, both AT&T and Loopt, a location-based application company, unveiled technologies that will allow businesses to send location-specific offers directly to consumers’ phones.[ii] As CNN explains, Loopt’s Reward Alerts application will send participating smartphone users notifications that a deal is immediately available in their area. AT&T customers will be able to opt in to receiving location-based deals by text message and will either be directed to a mobile website where they can redeem the deal or be told to go to a local establishment.

As traditional forms of advertising continue to decline in influence, location-based marketing offers exciting opportunities for businesses, and subsequently politicians, as we will explain in a minute.  Expansion is inevitable, with only four percent of online adults using “geosocial” sites according to a Pew Research study from December 2010.[iii] This number will quickly escalate as more consumer use smartphones and tablets, such as the iPad.  Foursquare, the leader in location-based subscribers, has more than seven million users, up from two million in July 2010, when we first discussed location-based applications in the article “Mapping Congress.”[iv]

Politically, particularly when it comes to campaigning, location-based applications are a valuable tool for organizing canvassing efforts and alerting supporters of upcoming events.  In addition, by creating a mobile application that constituents can download, campaigns have an additional tool to collect phone numbers, e-mail addresses, and other contact information from potential voters.  On Election Day, campaigns can send alerts to supporters reminding them to vote and pointing them toward their polling location.

Location-based applications have more than tripled their subscriber numbers in the past eights months.  Considering the exponential increases other social media tools experienced in their infancy, coupled with extraordinary sales numbers for smartphones and tablets, it only makes sense that location-based application usage will continue to surge leading into 2012.  Just as businesses and communications service providers are launching mobile advertising and tracking initiatives, incumbents and potential challengers will need to leverage new technological capabilities to maximize campaign and canvassing efforts during election season.



Develop a Relationship Before Asking for Cash Online

November 20, 2010

It is perplexing how many campaigns utilize e-mail solely to solicit money without ever building a rapport with supporters or enticing supporters with insider bits of information.  This practice goes entirely against the basic tenets of sales and inhibits digital success.

Dr. Jeffrey Lant, a leading scholar in marketing and sales, coined the “rule of seven.”  The idea is it takes seven marketing touches before a marketing message or sales pitch will have any significant impact.  For campaigns, a supporter joining your newsletter isn’t enough.  You still need to win their hearts.  By making them feel a part of the campaign, they will be happy to contribute when the time comes.

In his book, The Audacity to Win, David Plouffe discusses how the Obama campaign decided to announce the selection of Joe Biden as Obama’s running mate over text message, as opposed to a traditional press conference or event.  The campaign saw two primary benefits from such a decision.  First, it would grow the campaign’s text messaging database, which ultimately rose from a few hundred thousand phone numbers to millions.  Secondly, it made the campaign’s fervent supporters feel even closer to Obama, truly believing they were a part of history by hearing about the Vice Presidential selection before anyone else.

Plouffe also highlights in his book how the Obama campaign was careful not to ask for money too often in its e-mails and when it did, would go out of its way to explain why the money was important.  For instance, in an e-mail to Florida supporters, Plouffe shot a video explaining the campaign’s Florida budget and how an additional $4 million could be the difference between winning and losing the sunshine state.

Want to raise $20,000 in the final 12 hours before the FEC reporting deadline?  Need another $50,000 for more television advertising during the campaign’s final week?  Then be sure to do the due diligence early.  Send supporters insider tidbits or videos about the campaign.  E-mail instructions on how to obtain bumper stickers or free campaign paraphernalia.  Initiate contests such as the volunteer who knocks on the most doors in a weekend wins a free dinner with the candidate.

Above all else, do not fall into the trap where all you send is solicitations for money.  Because not only will supports not contribute, they will also stop reading your e-mails.


Editor Note: Apologies for the lag time between articles.  A combination of leaving town, work obligations and illness placed this blog post on the backburner.  Thank you for your understanding and continued readership.


Foursquare Helping Campaigns Get-Out-The-Vote

November 1, 2010

It may be Election eve, but similar to Republican Presidential hopefuls, Multimedia Politics already has its eyes cast on 2012.

It was exciting on Thursday to see Foursquare’s announcement of its ‘I Voted’ badge. Location-based applications will have a significant impact on political communications in the near-future. Combining tools such as Foursquare or Gowalla with existing social media channels will add an interactive element to Members’ media portfolios. And while the badge’s impact may be minimal on Election Day tomorrow, campaigns better pay attention and take notes because come 2012, it could become the most effective GOTV tool available.

Foursquare is partnering with Rock the Vote, the Pew TrustsGoogle, the Voting Information ProjectEngageTwitter Vote Report, and Jess3 to monitor foot traffic at polling locations. The information will be updated continuously on and Foursquare is making it available for anyone to embed it on their own website.

So what does this mean for campaigns? First, simply it is another tool for a campaign to track voter turnout by polling location. Imagine if campaigns were no longer dependent on frequent phone updates from field organizers? In addition, field organizers can track who has voted and avoid having to call them on Election Day. Lastly, campaigns can post frequent updates on their website and social media channels of how many people have voted and encourage those who have not to turnout.

What is stopping campaigns from creating an “I voted for [insert candidate name]” badge in 2012? Citizens may be inspired to vote by seeing their friends publically proclaim who they voted for. Some criticize Foursquare because it only has four million users – hardly a sampling of the population. This is true but Twitter had less than one million users in 2007 and has 175 million today.[1] Location-based applications are part of the future of political communications and politicians who use the applications now will be ahead of the curve come 2012.


Getting Out the Vote

October 27, 2010

Less than one week until Election Day. In order to celebrate, we are going to spend these final days examining original and effective tactics campaigns are deploying to market their final message and drive voters to the polls.

Commit to Vote Challenge

If you are a Democrat then chances are you received this on your Facebook page at some point over the last few days. OFA is sending this message to registered Democrats on Facebook asking them to commit to vote. Users are transferred to the Commit to Vote website on After signing up, users can then challenge their friends to also vote in November. This is social media canvassing at its core.

Road to Victory Tour

Senator Richard Burr (R-NC) has fired up the bus and is travelling throughout the state of North Carolina on his Road to Victory tour. The one-term Republican, and fellow Wake Forest alum, is primarily using video to generate voter enthusiasm – with his website front page saturated in Youtube links. He is also using Facebook to ensure North Carolinians know where they can vote early. The “EarlyVoteNC” icon on his page allows supporters to find their early voting location by entering their address.

24 Hours of Tom

Embattled Freshman Congressman Tom Perriello (D-VA) embarked on a 24 hour, 22 stop tour on October 25. The Congressman tweeted continuously throughout his tour and placed a tour map on his website. The tour generated substantial positive publicity in local newspapers and the coverage continued into the follow day with the announcement that President Obama will hold a rally with Perriello on October 29.

Putting the Sport in Politics

September 12, 2010

How can politicians cross the political divide and connect with their constituents?  One sure fire way is sports.

This is nothing new. Politicians have been attending sporting events since the 19th century. President Howard Taft began the tradition of the ceremonial first pitch to start the baseball season in 1910. But in 2010, politicians are demonstrating their team spirit digitally.

For the Labor Day matchup between Virginia Tech and Boise State, Senators Mark Warner (D-VA) and Jim Risch (R-ID) publically made a bet that the Senator representing the losing team will have to stand on the steps of the Capitol wearing the winning team’s jersey. Senator Warner publicized the bet on his Twitter and Facebook pages. Unfortunately for the Virginia Senator, Boise State won 33-30. Hope Senator Warner enjoys wearing blue.

In preparation for last year’s Nebraska and Missouri football game, Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) incited a prank war with Senator Ben Nelson (D-NE). McCaskill raided Nelson’s office, replacing family pictures with doctored photos of Nelson dawning Missouri gear. McCaskill then posted the new pictures on her Twitter page.

In addition to what they can do while in office, politicians running for office can garner extensive value from advertising with local sports teams. Senator Richard Burr (R-NC), a Wake Forest University graduate running for reelection, is placing campaign advertisements on Wake Forest’s official sports Website: He also acknowledged Wake Forest football and North Carolina Tarheels football on his Twitter page last week.

Nothing can unite a constituency more than sports. Fans quickly dismiss political ideology for tailgates and touchdowns. Politicians that can tap into the energy of a sports fan base can connect with their constituents while demonstrating a commitment to the town or state. And the proliferation of social media tools such as Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare present new, exciting ways to root for the home team.

Planting the Seeds of a Campaign on Social Media

September 7, 2010

The other day I received an e-mail alerting me that George Allen was following me on Twitter. This peaked my curiosity, knowing the former Governor and Senator is exploring a return to politics after his stunning loss to Jim Webb in 2006. The question to ponder is how can perspective politicians utilize social media as a precursor to a campaign?

2012 Presidential hopefuls Sarah Palin and Mike Huckabee are obvious candidates to examine for this article but instead we are going to fixate our eyes on the state of Virginia and examine two statewide politicians from opposing sides of the political spectrum.

Heading into his 2006 Senate reelection campaign, George Allen was seen by many as the preeminent face of the Republican Party. Many considered his Senate reelection campaign a mere footnote to a 2008 Presidential run. Then on August 11, 2006 Allen had his infamous ‘macaca’ moment, and the campaign derailed. Allen ended up losing to Jim Webb by approximately 8,800 votes, forcing the prominent Republican into obscurity.

Fast forward to 2010 and it is no secret that Allen is considering a rematch against Webb in two years. Allen is very active on Facebook, with his page consisting of more than 3,000 fans. He is working feverishly to increase his Twitter following. Allen is using social media to promote events he is attending on behalf of fellow Virginia Republicans, highlight articles that expound his political views, discuss sports and promote his new book.

Terry McAuliffe is best known in Washington has the chief fundraising architect for President Bill Clinton and former head of the Democratic National Committee. McAuliffe decided to try his hand in elected office, running for Governor of Virginia in 2009. Despite an overwhelming fundraising advantage and a lead in the polls for much of the primary, McAuliffe succumbed to a late surge from State Senator Creigh Deeds.

Judging by his actions, many belief McAuliffe is considering another run in 2013. McAuliffe is not active on Facebook though he is on Twitter, with more than 2,300 followers. He also regularly updates his Web site, Similar to Allen, McAuliffe uses social media to promote events he attends on behalf of fellow Virginia Democrats as well as highlight interviews he participates in with reporters. McAuliffe is not as active as Allen on Twitter, only tweeting every few days.

Social media is a great avenue for prospective candidates to test the waters of a potential run for office. Politicians can demonstrate their commitment to the community, showcase their work with local political leaders and test messaging. Similar to other aspects of a campaign such as fundraising and community support, it is much easier to build a successful social media infrastructure by planting the seeds before announcing a candidacy.