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Digital Outreach for Campaigns in Quarantine

COVID-19 is forcing campaigns to rethink their strategies for digital outreach, and we have recommendations for the new digitally focused campaign world.

With Americans at home and person to person contact off the table for some time, campaigns are rethinking their strategies for

  • Raising money
  • Leveraging volunteers
  • Reallocating budget from field and events to other voter communication methods

In this new world, innovative and affordable digital strategies have never been more important, and many of the campaigns, consultants, and progressive entities we work with or have been speaking with have asked us for ideas on how to make the digital pivot. We’ve brainstorm a bunch of ideas for campaigns to pivot their people power and financial resources to digital programs, and this blog covers them all.  If you’d like more information on any of these ideas, we’re happy to help- contact us at the form at the bottom of this blog.

Digital fundraising “Dinner” events

Donors are sitting at home, bored, just like the rest of us. even if you can’t do typical fundraising events, many would still open their wallet for the opportunity to attend an exclusive video conference with your candidate. Campaigns can create small digital fundraising events using standard conferencing software like Zoom or GoToMeeting, or large events using tele townhall provider

  To boost attendance beyond what your email program and call time can produce, you should consider digital marketing or texting programs that let your donors know you are having an event.

Make sure you have your candidate’s video and sound set up properly, and that your candidate is up for putting on a show through their webcam- these should be treated no differently than regular fundraisers from the campaign’s perspective!

Digital Donor Nurture campaigns

With economic outlooks uncertain, many donors are feeling less charitable than usual, lowering the ROI of call time and making previously profitable full-scale digital fundraising programs less viable.  To keep the funds flowing, consider Digital Donor Nurture programs. You can upload your call time donors to Facebook Ads and Programmatic Networks, and “Billboard” their internet experience with your candidate prior to them receiving a phone call or an email.

Imagine being able to zap in your candidate’s ad into a billboard on the side of the freeway whenever a donor drives by it- that’s basically what these campaigns do.  Digital inventory is very cheap for small lists, so it often takes as little as $100-200/month of ad spend to occupy your most important donor’s internet experience throughout the month.  High dollar donors are being approached by many different campaigns, and Digital Donor Nurture campaigns can give you the edge by prepping them to choose you as the recipient of their charitable giving when they’re back in a giving mood.

Upgrade your Social Media game

With the entire nation at home spending more time on the internet, organic Social Media has increased in importance for reaching quarantined voters.  To grab their attention, your content needs to stand out from the pack, and there are some low cost softwares and strategies that will make your content more effective.  Here are a few suggestions for to consider:

  • Invest in easy-to-use design software that will help your campaign make more compelling posts, like Canva, which has a $9.95/month plan that enables regular people to make well-designed graphics. 
  • Make sure you are posting on all the major Social Media platforms: Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.  Voters and donors use a variety of platforms, and you need to have a presence on each of them for maximum reach! To enable you to have this presence without drowning in the work it takes to post on each platform, consider this next suggestion:
  • Purchase social media scheduling software, like Hootsuite or MeetEdgar.  They allow you to post to multiple Social Media accounts from a single log-in and easily schedule out posts for the week.  The time they save you to make is easily worth the $30-$60/month that these softwares costs. 
  • Read up on Social Media best practices, like the Social Media Coalition newsletters we put together back in 2018. Using best practices- riding trending hashtags to new viewers, cutting images in the mobile optimized “Social Square”- can have a huge impact on the effectiveness of your  campaigns.

If you have the budget for it, you can also consider getting graphic design and Social Media support from professionals like us!

Reroute your field team and volunteers into digital outreach

If you have hardcore volunteers and paid staff that you had allocated for door knocking but are currently idling, put them to work by repurposing them into Social Media outreach teams! You can 

  • Assign “Virtual” turf and use Facebook to reach out to targeted voters
  • Create team building exercises and weekly challenges to push the team to reach more folk
  • Organize volunteers into Social Media groups so you can ask them to take collective action.
  • Band your team together together to “Troll” your Republican opponent’s Facebook feed with negative feedback.
  • Organize volunteers into Social Media groups so you can ask them to take collective action

Slides 14-18 from this Social Media Coalition newsletter highlight some tactics you can use to leverage volunteers to boost your Social Media presence.  If you are considering making digital outreach a big focus of your campaign, we highly recommend you look at relational outreach software like The Tuesday Company or Outreach Circle.  These platforms exponentially increase the daily contacts a single staff or volunteer can make in a day.

Ask supporters to generate content for you

Voters like to hear from other voters about why they should support your campaign, and in the absence of field, the best way to do this is with user generated video content.  Any volunteer with a smartphone can help you create authentic and effective Social Media posts. A few tips for how to optimize this content:

  • Ask volunteers to keep their exposition relatively short-:30 to 1:00 is ideal!
  • Have them center themselves in the middle of the the frame so you can cut it into a Social Square (1:1 aspect videos like the examples you see to the right)
  • Add subtitles if you can: Most people will see the posts on mute to start.  Most Social Media platforms offer the ability to do this when you upload a video.

Pete Buttigieg’s Presidential campaign created hundreds of posts out of supporter generated videos.  This content made voters in Iowa feel like there were plenty of folks just like them in the state that supported Pete, and helped fuel his surprise victory.  Your campaign may not have celebrities like Mandy Moore willing to create content for you, but regular volunteer or supporter content can be just as effective!

Get ahead on political ad certifications

To advertise on the Big Tech platforms, you need to become a verified political organization.  Facebook Ads and Google Ads have ever changing requirements for getting certified that can be a pain to figure out.  However, it is more important than ever for campaigns to jump through these approval hoops so they are ready to fully communicate with voters in the digital world, and so that they have the option to run some low budget options for talking with voters and donors in the meantime. 

Campaigns need to have different information for different authorizations: For example, Facebook asks for either an EIN or a confirmed website, email, and phone number to get approved.  Meanwhile, Google Ads asks for a W9. We put together a step by step guide for getting Facebook Ads certification that you can find here.

Capitalize on the down market: Invest in paid digital now

Only consider this if your campaign is well funded or has some strategic objective that early voter outreach would accomplish.  If either of those are you, than you should know that, because the economic turn has lowered prices for digital ads, there has never been a better time than now to invest in digital to get your message out.

Digital ads are purchased through a giant, real-time auction that is very sensitive to fluctuations in supply (number of people online) and demand (money advertisers want to spend to reach those people).  Not only are people spending more time online than ever before during quarantine, which drives down the price of inventory, advertisers across the entire economy have also pulled back their spending due to the uncertainty generated from COVID… which also drives down the price for inventory! Savvy campaigns can saturate their target audience at a significantly lower price than usual in this low demand world.
 
We hope these digital ideas have been helpful to your campaign as you consider your options in the new COVID-19 world.  Which of these ideas is the most helpful to your campaign? Or, are there ideas that we didn’t share that you think are crucial? Contact us and let us know with the form below!

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