Campaigns and Digital — It's All About Turnout


From Rob Cottingham's Noise to Signal

Did Bill de Blasio's Obama-like use of social media make a difference in the New York City Democratic mayoral campaign? Writing in the Huffington Post, Michael McLaughlin thinks so:

De Blasio used email, Twitter, Facebook and other social media sites more so than any other candidate in the crowded Democratic primary race, which he won earlier this month.

Whether true or not of this campaign, it's undeniable that social media and digital strategies make a huge difference in political campaigns when done well. And it would become virtually axiomatic if some campaign managers and their candidates — in Canada anyway — would stop ignoring the evidence. 

I've found part of the answer for social's success in campaigns (both political and issue oriented) in an article in the September 26, 2013 edition of The New York Review of Books by Elizabeth Drew called 'The Stranglehold on Our Politics'. Drew believes that voter turnout was the single biggest determinant in the outcome of the 2012 presidential and the 2010 mid-term elections.

The quality of the candidates, the economy, and many unexpected issues of course determine the atmosphere of an election: but in the end turnout is always decisive.

The mid-terms, with their lower turnout, reward intensity. In 2010, the Republicans were sufficiently worked up about the health care law and an old standby, "government spending". particularly the stimulus bill, to drive them to the polls in far larger number than the Democrats. A slight upward tick in turnout numbers can have a disproportionate impact in Congress and many of the states, and therefore the country as a whole. The difference in turnout caused such a change in 2010 . . . 

Partisan 'intensity' — no matter how disingenuous as in the case of the US Republicans and Obamacare which was based on their ideas — can bring the committed to the polls.

But when turnout is critical, when getting people to act on their beliefs is determinant, the social web comes into its own. The bedrock of the social web is friendship and relationship, both of which engender and support trust. And friendship and trust can be used to drive action even by the non-committed and the lazy.

The Obama campaign found that out when it used a purpose-built Facebook app to get friends of the campaign in important districts to persuade their friends to get to the polls.

It worked because colleagues, buddies and neighbours can be persuaded by friends to turnout.

Altimeter Report on Social Business 2013

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