A crash course in digital strategy

Finding your voters online is one thing, but what’s the best way to motivate those voters to engage with your candidate and cause? No matter the size of your race, it all starts with a solid digital game plan.    

Julie Germany, the vice president of digital strategy at DCI Group, and Tim Cameron, the director of digital media for the House Republican Conference, gave a crash course in digital strategy at C&E’s annual Art of Political Campaigning Conference in Washington on Monday.

Cameron offered a six-step guide to building a campaign website and some rules for managing campaign email. When building a site, think about the philosophy and the strategy behind your campaign; use that as inspiration.  

“Your campaign strategy is going to be dictating what you do on the ground,” said Cameron. “That really needs to be reflected on your website.”

A great tool for down-ballot campaigns when developing their sites—wireframes, which can save your campaign both time and money. A wireframe is used to sketch the general look of a site and contains similar elements that can be arranged for whatever purpose the designer needs.   

Involving the candidate early on in the process is key when building out the campaign website. If the candidate doesn’t like the way the website flows, campaign dollars and time can be wasted on a design that never sees the light of day.

Once you launch, you should never stop updating and improving over the course of the campaign. By keeping the layout, design and flow of the site fresh, voters and donors are more likely to return, increasing traffic and engagement over time.

Of course, it’s not just a well-designed website that will make the difference in a campaign’s online presence. A successful email campaign can drive traffic to your website and generate volunteers as well as donations.

“If there’s one thing I believe in, it’s campaign email,” Cameron said. “It works. It’s your way to motivate online donors to give,” he said. It’s also a great way of “getting people to go knock on doors, to attend your town hall, to take part in a rally and to participate in get out the vote efforts.”

Cameron also emphasized the importance of investing and segmenting your email list to better target voters and donors.  

Often the best way to keep your supporters and potential donors engaged via email is to take time to say thank you, said Cameron.

“If you are respectful of people, they’ll have your back,” he said. “It’s that type of relationship building that will make a difference.”

Germany addressed another way of building relationships online—actually offering something of value through social media channels.

“If in 2013 we don’t know what social media is, and if we need to spend time explaining it, then it hasn’t been doing a good job,” Germany said.

Developing a real presence on social media requires work, maintenance and money, said Germany. It’s not something to simply set up and then leave behind.

But despite the nearly limitless possibilities when it comes to social media, Germany warned against getting distracted by the sometimes-overused capabilities of a social network.

“It’s really important when we use social media to avoid shiny objects syndrome,” she said. “Regardless of what social media site you choose, take some time to take a step back to listen to the conversation, analyze it and then jump in.”

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