Adopting Political Technology

It’s 2020. The year has taken so many unexpected twists and turns it’s getting hard to see straight. We think it would be fair to say that traditional electioneering has been all but kicked to the curb. The shift political campaigns are experiencing was bound to happen. It has just happened a little bit sooner rather than later. Society is coming to a point where people spend more time online than offline; recent worldwide events have accelerated the process and now everyone needs to pivot.

We’ve seen it for almost 3 months now - virtual rallies, online voter communication and contact. The political technologies that power these channels to cut through the noise of the world will soon enough become the norm, not exception. But, before you make a move that is too quick, there are a few things you need to consider. Taking a look at what early adopters did and their successes and failures will help you create a campaign for the future that can’t be matched.

Established Political Technology

It’s so easy to think that new, new, new equals good, good, good. What many don’t realize is that the solutions to the problems that many campaigns and organizations face already exist.

It’s hard to remember the world before COVID-19 hit, but at the beginning of 2020 political campaigns were already diving into the technological realm. Does anyone remember the Iowa caucus? The Iowa Democrats commissioned a new reporting app to help make the process of counting easier. Unfortunately, it caused more problems than necessary.

What Went Wrong

First of all, the party paid about $63,000 for the development of this app. You may think that is a lot of money, but in reality it’s peanuts when it comes to technology. A complex tool like this isn’t something you can just whip up in a matter of weeks. There was no room for testing and thereby too much room for error. If the future desires a product like this, it must be funded and worked on between campaign cycles with ragtag coders. Those who are willing to get into the weeds and develop a product that is actually and easily usable.

Second, this type of setting did not need an app. It actually just created more room for error. A simpler step to take would have been shifting from using pen and paper to using spreadsheets. Google Sheets and Excel both have the ability to create formulas to make counting easier.

Taking this information and bringing it down to a campaign level where you might not have enough money to afford new technology or work with existing open source tools might make you feel very overwhelmed. So what do you do?

There are plenty of tools out there that will allow you to become more efficient and able to solve problems you might face when you are campaigning in a new age. By adopting political technology the right way, you can successfully shift into the digital campaign style.

What Problems are Worth Solving with Political Technology?

Most political campaigns and organizations have the hardest time identifying which problems need to be solved with technology. I mean, shouldn’t your digital tools work as well or better than your traditional methods? It’s not necessarily the fact that they don’t work as well or better, but that there is a successful way to pivot and shift into those tools.

Organizing rallies and events

The Bernie Sanders’ campaign has probably showcased the best use of digital tools. Before the pandemic even started, Sanders’ campaign was live-streaming rallies to supporters across the nation. Thus making the shift to completely online easy-peasy - for staff and supporters. His virtual rally drew approximately 1.6 million views.

On the other hand, Joe Biden had little to no experience in this area of campaigning. When COVID-19 hit, he had to massively overhaul his campaign and find his footing to keep up engagement with supporters when he couldn’t meet them face to face. For the Biden campaign, this meant learning quickly how to run Zoom town halls, podcasts and rallies via live-streaming platforms like YouTube and Facebook. Biden took it one step further when his staffers were able to include a live link to donate to the campaign while the event was going on.

Takeaway: Live-streaming allows you to broadcast events for your supporters to tune into from the comfort of their homes. Streaming across multiple platforms, like the Sanders campaign did, will allow you to reach even more supporters. Make it easier to donate during the event by adding a donation form right next to the event video or asking people to text to receive a donation link.

Reaching Younger Audiences

Each year more and more Gen Z-ers and Millennials are reaching the voting age. This year about 35% of the US electorate fall into this group. That means it is important now more than ever to get their attention for your political campaign.

President Trump’s campaign has been extremely successful in leverage platforms, like Snapchat, to reach those younger voters. Many have his posts have gone to reach millions of views across multiple social media platforms.

Former Presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg also used Snapchat to play to his audience. He would upload 15-second videos to the platform before each of his rallies. Again, drawing viewers in droves because they played onto their level.

Social media platforms in and of themselves have embraced their roles as important vehicles to motivate those young voters to become more politically active. Snapchat has been helpful in getting young voters registered via a generic link thus adding to the voter roles across the nation.

Takeaway: Sharing memes on Snapchat may not seem like a campaigning strategy, but if you want to reach younger audiences, you have to reach them on their terms. Maybe start small with a behind the scenes look at your virtual events or sharing authentic moments from the campaign trail.

Voter Registration

The COVID-19 pandemic caused a significant dip in voter registration. Some states, like Texas, don’t allow online voter registration. This means those states were hit even harder by the road bump. Democrats and Republicans in Texas have both taken steps to solve the problem by launching online platforms where unregistered voters can apply to be sent a voter registration card in the mail and sent back around to their county or the Texas SOS office.

Many campaigns have also been organizing outreach to make sure their supporters are able to register to vote by letting them know how the process works in their respective states.

Takeaway: Reach out to supporters using your most prominent social media channels, emails, phone calls and text messages with information on how they can register to vote. Robocent can help you get these messages out in a quick and efficient manner by utilizing robocalls, ringless voicemail drops, and SMS messages.

Voter Contact Tools

If you’re working on a campaign, you should probably know by now that the best way to get someone to vote for you (or your candidate) is to build a personal connection with them, have a conversation and then follow up whenever possible.

Door to door canvassing has proven to be extremely effective, but obviously there are disadvantages. The need for local volunteers, transportation, and time can prove to be hard to come by which is why political calls and peer to peer texts have proven to be sufficient to cover the gaps.
* Peer to peer texts In 2018, Democratic candidates sent texts to over 350 million people. That’s six times the number of texts in 2016 and 2017 combined. It’s no wonder why candidates made the effort to prepare their texting infrastructure in 2020. And they got better at it, by finding creative ways to use the medium.

  • Phone Calls. Similarly, Democrats Abroad used phone calls to great effect, getting excellent response rates when reaching out to supporters during the US Midterm elections, with 90% of the conversations they had with supporters being positive. Takeaway: Adopting personalized communication tools (Robocent can help you with this!) enable your campaign to reach supporters through phone calls and peer-to-peer texts. The more personalized the channel, the better you will be able to replicate the impact created by a face-to-face discussion.

Volunteer Recruitment

For modern campaigns, volunteer recruitment is a matter of spreading awareness among supporters and making it as easy as possible to sign up and get involved with the campaign. Most of the campaigns in the 2020 Presidential race, used online platforms or phone calls to recruit their volunteers. Using social media channels, phone calls, and text messages are a great way to get supporters involved and a part of your campaign.

Takeaway: Get the word out about volunteering for your campaign among supporters. Once you have their attention, make the process of registering their interest to volunteer as simple as possible by using website forms, collecting important data like email addresses and phone numbers so your campaign can keep in touch.

Evaluate the Technology You Need

Making the transition into the digital age of politicking and adopting political technology to run your campaign might seem like a daunting task. Figuring out the problems you are trying to solve when shifting from traditional methods to adopting technology is the hard part. Once that’s done, all you need to do is find the tools you need to help you achieve your goals.

The easiest way to do it for small to medium scale campaigns is by adopting existing tools that can get the job done. You don’t have to pay to develop new features, but just for the services you use.

Robocent is here to help you navigate these new waters. Contact us today at 757-821-2121!