“We have to think about where the audiences are,” said Dowd in an interview with Fortune magazine. She expects technologies like mobile live-streaming app Periscope to fundamentally change how campaigns operate, and the focus will be on “letting people feel like they are part of the real-time movement of the campaign”. The Clinton campaign has moved beyond email and is using everything from Twitter to Snapchat, Pinterest and a dedicated app (see boxout) to reach out to voters, and in turn gather as much information as possible on what messages draw the most engagement, and from whom. However, in spite of the expertise Clinton and her team have shown in embracing the power of data and digital marketing methods, there has been a barrier to her success that no amount of analytics training can help with: the authenticity problem.
Inside game Despite being a billionaire who has benefited from inherited wealth, Donald Trump has managed to run a hugely successful campaign positioning him as an outsider in the political sphere. Trump presents himself as a figure who can disrupt business-as-usual in Washington and stand up for people who feel they have been left behind by traditional politicians. Many elements of Trump’s campaign have been tailored to support this message, such as his refusal to accept corporate donations for his primary campaign, instead largely self-funding his journey to becoming the Republican nominee. However, one of the most important
mobile-first digital campaign strategy doesn’t just mean a big Twitter presence and geo-fenced email campaigns; it also means providing your supporters with mobile tools to encourage their volunteering efforts, and enabling them to connect with more potential voters. That’s exactly what Clinton’s campaign did in the lead-up to the Democratic National Convention, with the creation of an iOS app for supporters that would serve as a ‘Digital HQ’. The app was primarily designed to connect supporters to events at the convention in Philadelphia, with an event calendar, live-streamed speeches and quizzes on Clinton’s policy positions. But the app also aims to gamify the volunteering process, with virtual badges and reallife prizes available for activities like sharing videos through Facebook or getting friends to register to vote. Users even get a digital campaign office, complete with plants that need watering, to keep them engaged and ready to receive the latest news.
factors has been the tone of his social media presence. Trump has maintained a consistent voice on Twitter throughout the campaign, while attacking “Crooked Hillary” as the latest in a series of political dynasties and removed from the needs of everyday Americans. Clinton’s social media messaging has struggled to react to these attacks, and is still fighting back against the perception that her campaign and candidacy is a slick operation lacking heart. Trump’s social media presence may be controversial and polarising, but there can be no doubt that he is the one steering the ship – if for no other reason than his rather unique approach to grammar. Meanwhile, Clinton’s online presence has been criticised as feeling too managed and staged, which has only fed into negative public perceptions. There are signs that Clinton’s social team are beginning to turn this around, however, using pop culture and modern idioms to respond to Trump’s attacks. When Donald Trump attacked President Obama for his endorsement of Clinton, she fired back within five minutes with “Delete your account”, a response that went on to become her most popular tweet ever, with over 600,000 likes and close to half a million retweets.
The shift from the relatively composed tone of the Democratic primary battle to the more confrontational presidential campaign against Trump has enabled Clinton’s team to be more direct and combative on social media, attacking his outlandish claims and lack of coherent policies. A recent campaign by Priorities USA, a Super PAC supporting Clinton, ran ads on Facebook, Instagram and Pandora, targeting voters in nine key swing states with video ads that showed some of Trump’s controversial comments on women, immigration and the environment, followed with a cartoonish “WTF?”. Messaging from a presidential campaign that deploys teenage slang may not feel like high-minded debate. But the rise of an outsider like Donald Trump marks the 2016 election as one that doesn’t play by many of the conventional rules of politics-as-usual. That may make the preparations that the DNC made, as it tried to embrace Silicon Valley-style digital agility, all the more important in the months ahead, as both sides attempt to outmanoeuvre and undermine the other. Indeed, the opponents will be leveraging every possible advantage, in what is sure to be a bloody and cut-throat fight for the presidency. MM
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