Politicians should leverage social, SMS to reach voters: study

Politicians can strengthen their power to reach voters by adding social media and texting to their marketing and campaigning mix, according to a new study.

With voters going to the polls Tuesday in United States general elections, the study by CallFire, a voice and text marketing company that works with Pepsi and Domino?s Pizza as well as the Democratic National Committee, emphasizes how despite the public?s interest in social campaigning, the tools remain under-used.

?Social media is a great platform that should be part of the campaign mix,? said Sean Gera, senior marketing manager at CallFire, Los Angeles. ?As it continues to see broad adoption, and new voters more adept at social media enter the voting pool, it should be a key messaging tool and not an ancillary afterthought.?

Reaching the electorate

The survey of about 500 adults aged 18 and older was conducted Oct. 15-20 on the CallFire platform. 

The poll found that 54 percent of Americans think social media is the best way for a political campaign to reach voters.

Social can be a force in campaign organizing.

President Obama?s campaigns of 2008 and 2012 both used social media successfully. Obama?s 2008 campaign was particularly noteworthy for demonstrating social?s power to organize supporters, raise money and even fend off attacks from opponents.

?Obama used social media effectively in 2012 ? he made it hip, cool, relevant,? Mr. Gera said. ?Other candidates and causes have found equal success integrating it into their messaging channels.  It is quick, cost effective, flexible, responsive and engaging.?

The poll also found that less than one in four (24 percent) said they have ever been contacted by a campaign through social platforms.

?There's opportunity here,? Mr. Gera said. ?Add social media to your marketing/campaigning mix.  Fifty-four percent want it and only 24 percent got it. 

?There is a disconnect and those that bridge that gap can reap the rewards.?

A finding that nearly one in five people (19 percent) said text is the best way to reach voters but only 10 percent have been contacted via SMS signals that politicians are missing an opportunity to boost their ability to connect with large swaths of voters.

?There's an under-utilized tool to reach additional segments of voters in this manner,? Mr. Gera said. ?How many others aren't hearing or seeing or responding to messaging because they want to be contacted via text?

?If that is a platform for consumption and engagement of messaging, it warrants strong consideration by candidates and pollsters.?

Despite their differing goals, political marketing and commercial brand marketing are similar.

Rough road

Political marketing tends to be more aggressive, often requiring not just praising a candidate, but criticizing the competition. Candidates campaign over time, but many voters are not definitive in their decision-making or loyalty until days before the final election. 

Political marketing is aggressive.

In the final days leading up to election day, voters are hit with an onslaught of marketing, usually using television, radio and direct mail.

?Text and voice messaging warrants consideration as a tool to really drive messaging and call to action in these last days,? Mr. Gera said.

Final Take

Michael Barris is staff reporter on Mobile Marketer, New York.