Fundraising through social media is now a mandatory part of any political digital initiative. It’s a magical button that is easy to install, provides instant access to new political supporters and totally disrupts traditional political fundraising, right? Maybe not.
According to a new study published in Ecommerce Quarterly, social commerce is almost non-existent. Social media generated only 1.55 percent of traffic to e-commerce sites. To make matters worse, only 0.71 percent of that traffic resulted in any kind of financial transaction.
I’ve been experimenting with social fundraising for politics since 2007, more than 3 years before the launch of the now-ubiquitous Facebook “Like” button. Social media is a fantastic tool for engaging and building a relationship with your supporters. Its importance is in a constant state of evolution but I have yet to see any social fundraising initiative dependent on traditional social media make a significant fundraising impact on a campaign.
For Republican campaigns, traditional fundraising models still reign supreme. If we glance back at the $2 billion in Republican political transactions CMDI processed for the 2012 cycle, we see that online fundraising in general is still small potatoes at 9 percent when compared to
· Direct Response: 40 percent
· Events: 25 percent
· Volunteer fundraisers: 25 percent
Of the 9 percent raised online, most of the money can be attributed to emailed call-to-action or organic traffic based on events in the physical world such as Supreme Court decisions, debates, or announcements of running mates. These gifts were, for the most part, not the results of social media. Note that these numbers are constantly changing and online giving is growing at a significant rate.
The times I’ve seen online social fundraising to be most successful have been outside the use of social media. It’s when a digital team builds a custom sharing solution that engages a donor to reach out to their friends and family in a more personal manner. The custom solution makes the solicitor feel and act as a volunteer bundler rather than the more passive action of clicking a Like/Share button.
Here is my twofold theory for why social fundraising has not been successful to date:
1. People go to social media sites to be just that: Social. No one is going to change their political views, read lengthy articles, or spend a ton of money based on a friend’s post. Similar to going to a fast food restaurant, you expect something quick, cheap, and not nourishing. That said, natural disasters or tragic events do have better results via social media. These emotional stories are hot button topics that are saturated in the news. They already exist in the forefront of everyone’s mind so a click to donate approach works.
2. Secondly, emails are directed towards a more specific audience. Twitter and Facebook posts can seem like minor hiccups while emails are usually well thought out and deliberate. Email lists also tend to go to house lists or targeted potential donors and therefore are more likely to generate strong responses to your call-to-action. Additionally, people are in a different mindset as they open their email – they’re more prepared to read paragraphs and absorb information rather than scrolling down a laundry list of random thoughts.
Should you continue to invest time on social media? Absolutely.
You’re building a brand and a relationship with your supporters. Leverage social media to make your candidate a part of your supporters’ lives and circle of friends. Post your pictures, fundraising goals, and upcoming events, but look at it for what it is, one step in the process of engaging and collecting data on your supporters.
Erik currently runs sales and marketing for CMDI, the largest Republican fundraising technology platform. Prior to joining CMDI, Erik founded numerous fundraising technology companies whose products have raised over $300 million for hundreds of political and cause-based organizations.