My involvement with the Beto O’Rourke congressional campaign was on two levels. The first was in my role as President at Stanton Street which was hired to develop and manage online efforts. The second was my role as a volunteer as which I assisted with photography and data reporting services.
This summary blends my roles into one narrative in an effort to document the effort as it happened.
To be clear - the success of this campaign was the result of many hard working volunteers and supporters. This series of posts is not an attempt to take any credit for the outcome - it is simply a presentation of how technology played a role in the formula that led to success.
Because of the amount of detail, this summary will be posted in four parts:
- Part 1: The Foundation - (this post)
- Part 2: Implementation
- Part 3: Ongoing Efforts
- Part 4: Final Moves and Evaluation of Reyes Campaign Errors
Initial Set-up and Solution Choices
There are several basic functions any political campaign needs to perform when it comes to online efforts and communication. Early in the process we identified solutions that would provide the most efficient method of accomplishing these basic tasks. These are foundational elements that performed their tasks from start to finish.
A phone number without a phone line - plus texting.
Instead of purchasing a physical phone line which must be attached to a physical phone, we secured a Google Voice number that could be assigned to any cell phone in use by the campaign. Calls placed to the phone number would be configured to ring the designated person’s cell phone. Messages left on the number were transcribed to text and sent via email to the responsible person. This service also allowed the campaign to receive and send text messages from any PC.
Make high quality photos readily available.
Reporters and bloggers frequently need photos for their articles. We determined that it would be in the campaign’s best interest if a pool of high-quality, flattering photographs was readily available for use by the media. In addition, the ability to access an online repository of photos would prove useful for internal campaign purposes. Flickr provided the necessary features to allow us to accomodate this need.
Google Docs, Google Calendar and GMail were selected to provide a central place to store, share, and collaborate on documents, a shared calendaring system, as well as a central email address for the campaign.
While Flickr and Google Docs handled photos and documents well, there would still be a need for file sharing among various volunteers. DropBox was a natural solution.
Similar to Flickr, the campaign would have a need to post and share videos. Vimeo’s platform offered the features we needed in this regard. Still, the social media value of YouTube was desirable, so all videos were posted to both Vimeo and YouTube.
For online payment processing, PayPal was the natural choice. It was simple and met the needs we anticipated.
We recommended Square to the campaign to handle on-site donations by credit card. The solution was elegant and convenient.
Emphasize the contrast between the candidates
Let me be honest here - if you saw a photo of O’Rourke and Reyes side by side, the differences would be obvious and you’d naturally be drawn to O’Rourke. This led to the strategy of making high quality, flattering photos of O’Rourke freely available to anyone who wanted to use them.
As a volunteer I photographed Beto for his profile picture as well as at various events. All of the photos that passed my quality control standards were made available via the campaign’s Flickr feed - free of charge and without the burden of extra clearance requirements.
Quality control of the photos was also important because it was a distinguishing factor. One of the first online articles about the race put a photo of O’Rourke next to Reyes in a split-screen format. The viewer didn’t have to look very closely at the photo to see that Reyes had some sort of stain on his jacket. The goal was to always present a sharper appearance than the opponent.
The creation of an image library with a large quantity of quality photos would keep the media from scraping the bottom and selecting less than flattering images.
Allow discussion and even dissent
The incumbent had a reputation for not being available to voters. He rarely, if ever, held meeting with residents of the district. It was our assumption that he would keep this same stance when it came to social media. Beyond that, because our goal with social media wasn’t our direct fans - it was their friends, it was obvious that it was better to encourage and allow discussion whenever possible. We drew the line at misleading or personal attacks, but dissenting opinions were left on the facebook page and discussion was encouraged.
Whenever possible, messaging was geared toward energizing volunteers. Because the goal of social media efforts was to get people talking, an energized volunteer was a valuable asset in spreading the message and influencing their contacts. This was accomplished through a variety of means including posting content that inspired fans to share it with others.
Use technology to create efficiency
The reality of having a budget that is less than half of the opponent made efficiency necessary. Technology provided tremendous help in this area. The solutions listed at the beginning of this post were available for minimal or zero cost. In addition, we created back end systems that would allow quick and easy storage and sharing of information.
One strong example of how we used technology to create efficiency is how yard signs were distributed. Each yard sign was stored in a database and geolocated. These points were put on a map with grid overlay. Each grid section printed out with a map and list of locations within that grid below it. Volunteers were able to efficiently deliver yard signs because the workload was intelligently distributed.
The Equalizing Force - Social Media
It was obvious early in the planning stages that O’Rourke would need to overcome the cash imbalance between his campaign and that of Reyes. The strategy we proposed involved heavy use of exposure through social media. This involved the obvious platforms of Facebook and Twitter, and also the less technical approach of offline relationship mapping (which will be explained in more detail in part 4).
The strategy involved looking for ways to take full advantage of the social influence of supporters. The obvious but often overlooked value of social media is not in the posts made by the campaign, but in the interactions people had with those messages.
Our target audience was not the few thousand people who “liked” the campaign page, but the “friends of fans” which numbered over 200,000 in the very beginning. With that in mind, posts were crafted with the objective of getting people to respond to them in some way. We used the phrases “Social Impact” and “Social Momentum” to describe these goals of the strategy.
Dollars or Votes
Each move was evaluated by answering a simple question - will this bring dollars or votes? This helped us temper our excitement about all the cutting edge things we could build and kept us focused on the goal of the effort.
With the goal of maximizing the social momentum of the campaign in mind, we developed a software platform that kept track of the sphere of influence of each supporter. We created a mechanism to track which supporters were responsible for actions taken by other supporters. For example, if one supporter posted a link to the campaign website on their facebook wall, we would be able to tie any actions taken by that supporter's contacts back to him or her. The same would apply for email referrals. The structure was such that multiple layers of influence could exist under any single supporter. This would allow us to identify supporters who we would call “key influencers.” These people would be valuable to the campaign because their actions online had the potential to cause many others to take similar actions.
Powered by Facebook Comments
- Culture (25)
- Economics (52)
- Local (19)
- Photography (67)
- Politics (63)
- Reviews (1)
- Seriously? (30)
- Tips (7)
- Travel (2)
- Uncategorized (2)
- BigStock Portfolio
- iStock Photo Portfolio
- Photography Portfolio
- Purchase Prints
- Shutterstock Portfolio
- A view of the ASARCO stacks a few days before their scheduled demolition. http://t.co/PNPg1M3opk 02:59:31 AM April 12, 2013 from TweetCaster for Android ReplyRetweetFavorite
- Downtown El Paso from City Hall. One last photo before they knock it down. http://t.co/V743Y46ggD 04:11:41 AM March 07, 2013 from Flickr ReplyRetweetFavorite
- El Paso's Star. http://t.co/seT14Obpko 03:59:51 AM March 06, 2013 from Flickr ReplyRetweetFavorite