Hillary Clinton is breaking new ground with a mobile meet-the-candidate sweepstakes that aims to raise money for her 2016 run at the White House, capitalizing on both the former secretary of states celebrity and the emergence of social media as a key tool in American politics.
The program serves Facebook users who had given permission weeks ago to be sent Clinton campaign communications with an ad inviting them to provide email addresses and zip codes to win an opportunity to meet Ms. Clinton. Users who do so are invited to increase their chances of meeting the candidate by donating money to her campaign, making Ms. Clintons fame a touchpoint in her second historic run for the Democratic primary nomination and the United States presidency.
There are contests and giveaways with big brands every day, and Hillary is a big brand, said Sean Gera, strategic analyst for marketing with CallFire, Santa Monica, CA. We just have never seen this in politics up to this point, but I think this was inevitable and she can leverage this concept with her strong social media presence, on her Web site, at her fundraising events, through SMS campaigns, and even mentioning in voice broadcasting and phone banking campaigns.
It is a very good tactic as it creates a buzz or interest in her campaign that is fresh and it excites many of her loyal followers who only dream of meeting her in person, he said. It creates more opportunities to interact with her supporters which keeps her image and branding in line with her campaign platform.
Ms. Clintons campaign reflects a grasp not only of mobiles growth in Web site traffic but of the importance of being screen-agnostic.
Leveraging celebrity and social.
On Saturday, a Facebook user who had opted in to Ms. Clintons campaign was served an ad on his Apple iPhone 6 smartphone that invited him to provide an email address and a zip code to have a chance to meet the former first lady, senator and secretary of state who has become a global brand.
After submitting the information, the user was then invited to increase his chances of meeting Ms. Clinton by making a donation to her campaign. The page showed donation buttons in various amounts.
An email also came to the users account inviting him to participate in the promotion to meet Ms. Clinton.
Although employing a two-layered approach to use a sweepstakes and then tying it to getting people to donate is a well-established strategy in the private sector, it is an innovative tactic in the political arena.
If she tries to overdo this marketing campaign, then I think the only risk here is that her campaign may lose its effectiveness, Mr. Gera said. But it is early enough to determine the true value of this tactic and adjust the messaging.
Using mobile to fill a campaign war-chest.
While Ms. Clinton has surrounded herself with impressive mobile tools in support of her presidential bid, critics say that an unchallenging primary period could limit opportunities to take advantage of mobile's ability to drive real-time relevancy and urgency while building and engaging her supporter base.
Notwithstanding her establishing the foundational elements, including a mobile-optimized Web site and Facebook, Twitter and YouTube pages, being a front-runner with star power may prove a disadvantage in a political culture that needs an uphill battle to get creative on mobile.
Meanwhile, the current campaign which so far has seen both Democratic and Republican declared and potential candidates taking the wraps off SMS and other initiatives shows mobile and political strategy developing in a cohesive manner.
An email address is gold for political campaigns, said Amanda Bloom, media director for BASK Digital Media, which works on Republican campaigns. So, the Clinton campaign initially asking for an email address, first and foremost, and then asking for a donation is logical.
This is a common practice and is in use by Republican presidential and non-presidential candidates as well, she said. More than 80 percent of Facebooks traffic is through the mobile app so Facebook advertising heavily skews mobile, thus the landing pages and the forms must be mobile friendly.
All smart political campaigns, Dems and Republicans, have mobile optimized sites and landing pages, she said. We are preaching mobile-first Web design and then desktop second because of the trajectory of mobile usage.
The Clinton campaign is expected to use SMS and MMS technology as it gains traction.
Marking a new trend in United States politics?
I think the tactics and messaging during this fundraising period will be innovative on both sides, which is exciting and new trend in American politics, Mr. Gera said.
Michael Barris is staff reporter on Mobile Marketer, New York
Michael Barris is staff reporter on Mobile Marketer and Mobile Commerce Daily, New York.