Newspaper article Roll Call

Tech Experts: Expect Innovation, Investment on Established Platforms for 2016

Newspaper article Roll Call

Tech Experts: Expect Innovation, Investment on Established Platforms for 2016

Article excerpt

Two weeks before Scott Walker announced his presidential bid, he set up a Snapchat account so followers could get a behind-the- scenes look at the Wisconsin governor grilling brats and singing karaoke. When Hillary Rodham Clinton held her first major campaign rally of the cycle on Roosevelt Island in New York, she live- streamed it on Periscope so supporters could tune in from afar.

As candidates utilize the latest social media platforms ahead of the 2016 elections to expand their potential reach with voters, political and technology experts say they should be investing the most in the older guard (relatively speaking) technologies, led by email and established giants such as Facebook, Twitter and Google Ads.

For congressional candidates with smaller budgets and shorter timelines than their presidential counterparts, experts say innovations in targeting and increased efficiency for turning eyeballs into donors, such as one-click donations, are far more important than maintaining an active Vine or Instagram account.

"The checkbox approach to being on every platform is not an effective way to create a cohesive digital strategy," said Mike Conlow, technical director at Blue State Digital and former deputy chief technology officer to President Barack Obama's 2012 re- election campaign. "The fewer resources a campaign has, the more realistic it has to be about the size of its digital strategy."

The metaphor multiple strategists used to describe an effective digital strategy is "a funnel" -- a campaign's goal should be to reach out to as many people as possible and then draw them in to support the candidate, financially and otherwise.

For fundraising, experts said email is still king -- though social-media platforms may prove effective at expanding campaign outreach.

"The way to voters' hearts may be through Instagram or Facebook, and all of those things are going to provide a wider funnel for which to get voters through, but the road to donating still goes straight through the inbox," said Nick Schaper, the president and CEO of Engage and former director of digital media for Speaker John A. Boehner.

Statewide and national campaigns often have more money to test the waters of newer and relatively unproven technologies. On the other end of the spectrum, experts advised candidates with constrained resources to double down on more established platforms, which have huge audiences and allow for more effective targeting and leveraging supporters' networks.

"It definitely is a focus on basics and not being distracted by those new platforms and things that are not proven," said Carl Sceusa, chief technology officer at IMGE and a former deputy digital director at the National Republican Senatorial Committee. "If you can actually get the friend to recruit other friends, that's a big part of what this cycle is going to be. …

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