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Mobile will play pivotal role in 2012 political campaigns

In the 2008 presidential elections, President Obama?s campaign was applauded by mobile marketers for its use of SMS and mobile Web. But with an increase in consumer adoption and more companies incorporating mobile in the past three years, how will political candidates use the channel in the upcoming 2012 elections?

Text messaging is still the most effective way for political candidates to reach a broad group of consumers, but video, applications and advertising will also play an important part in the 2012 elections. Additionally, political candidates will need to combine their mobile efforts with other marketing channels including social media, broadcast and Web for 2012.

?Voters will demand more with real-time engagement in the 2012 elections, whether it is breaking news, polling information or an insider perspective from the campaign,? said Scott Goodstein, CEO of Revolution Messaging, Washington.

?Mobile is growing up and the fad is wearing off with people that want real-time information via their devices,? he said.

Multichannel campaign
Mobile is slated to take over a bigger part of ad dollars for political candidates in 2012 after marketers saw the impact that mobile had in 2008.

However, now marketers have access to other channels that were not as widespread in 2008.

?Whether it is through in-app, MMS, a mobile landing page or a YouTube clip, the ability to watch a video through mobile makes a direct connection between candidates and voters,? Mr. Goodstein said.

Video is a key component to a political campaigns with debates and speeches, making mobile a natural extension for candidates for voters to visually see candidates while on the go.

Mr. Goodstein, who worked on Obama?s election campaign, says that the campaign wanted to use more video in 2008 but was held back with technology advances.

For example, smartphone penetration has increased dramatically since the last presidential election and has created larger data plans and better video quality for consumers.

In addition to video, applications will also play a more strategic role in political campaigns this year.

Mobile campaigns are expected to especially use more location-based services that tie political messages to real-world places where voters can do something to support a candidate.

From getting contact information, finding supporters or locating a nearby voter stations, apps can help political marketers target a large group of voters and make a campaign more tailored for specific voters to help educate them.

Mobile apps can also be used to help drive donations by political candidates.

For example, Calyp, which is a loyalty and rewards app, is currently being by used by Republican candidate Rick Perry to let users donate via the app. Users can also share Rick Perry content with their friends and family via social media.

?A mobile political campaign is not just about short text messages anymore,? said Andrew Levi, founder/CEO of Calyp, Dallas.

?Mobile needs to be used as part of a full, creative campaign with interactive videos and social media to target a mass number of consumers,? he said.

Here is the in-app endorsement that Rick Perry is using on the Calyp app

Talk via text
Despite the rapid growth in smartphone ownership, SMS reigns as the channel with the broadest reach, which is especially important for political candidates looking to reach a mass amount of voters.

However with the increased use of mobile marketing, consumers expect more when opting into a SMS program and candidates will need to make sure their text message programs use mobile more strategically in the 2012 elections.

?With political campaigns, you are talking about trying to market to people in mid-America with a higher percentage of SMS usage,? said Derek Johnson, CEO of Tatango, Seattle.

Tatango has worked on the SMS programs of Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown and Washington State Senator Patty Brown and believes that SMS is beyond the stages of being a vessel for communicating.

Obama's text messages lead users to a mobile Web site where they can donate and buy merchandise

Consumers are familiar with mobile Web and therefore expect to get a message with a direct way for them to act on.

For example, Obama?s most recent text messages include links to mobile Web sites where users can donate and learn about upcoming campaign events.

MMS can also help political candidates bolster their campaigns.

?The key to text-message marketing is getting people engaged and having the opportunity to provide a rich media experience that gathers voters? attentions and grabs a piece of emotional ground for them,? said Steven Gray, CEO of iLoop, San Jose, CA.

Text message programs can also be effectively used to interact with voters at events and build a mobile database.

?Mobile is a phenomenal tool for citizens to speak out about issues they are passionate about,? said Amanda Moskowitz, general manager of Mobile Commons, New York.

?For political candidates, mobile messaging is a powerful way to grow a base of supporters from their media and events," she said.

"Candidates can then affect important outcomes through mobile messaging with these groups, such as rallying people for more local events, motivating them to get out the vote, prompting a donation and many other forms of effective engagement."

 Target audience
Another big area of mobile growth for 2012 will be in mobile advertising, specifically with geotargeting.

Location-based mobile advertising lets candidates target voters in areas that they might need an extra push, such as battleground states.

For example, Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachman recently used geotargeted ads at the Minnesota State Fair that educated users on a proposed tax increase on food found inside the state fair.

Voters can expect to see similar mobile initiatives from political candidates in 2012 looking to drive a specific, targeted message to a group of consumers by location.

?Geo-targeting is the magic bullet for political campaigns because it enables them to focus their ad spending only in the markets where there is heated competition,? said Alistair Goodman, CEO of Placecast, San Francisco. 

?We can expect to see a number of new uses of mobile technology - from geo-triggered alerts when a candidate is speaking in the area to social services connecting like-minded campaign supporters when they are near each other,? he said.

?Political campaigns are consistently at the leading edge of using new digital marketing tools for reaching their audiences and spending on mobile this time around will be both substantial and highly valuable.?

Final Take
Lauren Johnson is editorial assistant on Mobile Marketer, New York