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Digital campaigning isn’t all small-dollar fundraising and sophisticated ad targeting. There are a range of what we’ll call “dark arts” when it comes to digital, and it’s something that should already be on your campaign’s radar.
At one extreme you have Director of National Intelligence James Clapper warning presidential campaigns they’re a target for hackers. At the other, you have the skullduggery of traditional campaigning — yard sign theft for the digital age — that has migrated online.
Here are a few things your campaign needs to be on the lookout for this cycle, and a couple of ways you could flip the script on an opponent.
The Name Game
Make sure you own your own domain names – and check to see whether your opponents have left some obvious ones on the market. This trick is so widespread a “Bachelor” contestant is now using it.
Domain missteps can happen to a campaign at any level – Ted Cruz and many others learned it the hard way. You’d be surprised how many campaigns and IEs fail to cover their bases on this one. Don’t be among them.
Trolling on Social Media
We’re all aware of the politicians-plus-Twitter horror stories. Since many pols handle their own Twitter accounts, this is a way you can get under your opponent’s skin and create a self-inflicted wound. Start a parody Twitter account. Your opponent may react hastily and make it a story – or in Trump’s case, Gawker played right into his vanity. (Twitter policy on parody accounts here.)
Moreover, you can get your own fan base to flood their mentions with a particular message or issue – annoying for them, entertaining for you. Trolling bonus points if you can enrage their supporters, too.
Take Over Search
Google adwords can be a pretty inexpensive tool – be sure to run them on your opponent’s name as well as your own. Going back to domains, if you own a good domain with their name on it, this is a great place to amplify the content via paid search and social, as well as some search engine optimization so it shows up high in organic results, too. It can take years for a candidate to recover from a well-orchestrated search attack.
Laura Packard is a partner at PowerThru Consulting, a Democratic digital strategy firm. She’ll be talking dark arts for the digital campaigner at CampaignTech Chicago on August 4. Got any more ideas for digital tricks and traps? Tweet her at @lpackard