4 Clever Ways the Republicans and Democrats Use Social Media to Raise Money and Identify their Vote

by politicalthing

This blog was originally authored by me and published on the Radian6 website on July 11, 2012. I am posting it here for posterity.

In the United States the national Republican and Democratic parties are doing an incredibly good job at harnessing social media for fundraising and voter I.D.

Here are four things they do really well that can be adopted (and modified) for state and local political parties.

Leverage Social Participation & Offer Rewards

The Obama campaign has organized a couple of fundraisers that offer supporters the chance to attend A-list Hollywood events with the President. The donation required to enter the raffle is low – 3 dollars – and has been overwhelmingly successful generating 9 million dollars from the lottery alone for an event at George Clooney’s. The success of the event has inspired the Romney campaign to do a similar event, and will likely become a mainstay of presidential fundraising going forward.

State and local political parties may not be able to attract the star power that POTUS and Clooney can muster but the principle can still be applied. Local political volunteers would appreciate the opportunity to have a sit down with political players in their area. It will provide an incentive to give and an opportunity for that volunteer to be recognized. You can bet they’ll leave that event ready to work even harder in the future.

Issue Based Donations – The ‘Money Bomb’

The ‘Money Bomb’ is a time-honored tactic that has been given new life in the social media era. Timing is essential when a political issue surfaces that resonates with your base. Being able to harness that passion and turn it into donations and registrations at its height is essential to success. Prior to the advent of social media issue-based fundraising was slower as it took time to fire up phone banks and send mail-outs. The social media era cuts down the time significantly and the organic nature of sharing allows you to reach people that aren’t in your database as well.

Own the Meme

Political memes have become a staple of this presidential election cycle. Political humor is a sacred aspect of Western democracy and American political humorists have some of the sharpest wit around. One meme that proved to be fundraising dynamite for Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum, was the SNL inspired “sweatervest meme”. Santorum had been frequently pictured wearing sweatervests, and SNL comedian Andy Samberg picked up on that fact to poke fun at the presidential hopeful. Santorum’s campaign saw the humor in it and turned it into a fundraising machine bringing in $300,000 for his campaign.

Lift the Hood

In politics the term “inside baseball” is often used to describe the minutiae of day-to-day political life. It’s the kind of stuff that politicians and political operatives live and die by in their bubble but assume (correctly for the most part) that most living in the world outside politics would have little use for.

During the 2008 presidential election cycle the Obama team found out that sharing this inside information was an effective tool for grass-roots organization and fundraising. ‘Lifting the hood’ as Obama campaign manager David Plouffe described in The Audacity to Win allowed “our supporters to understand how we saw the race and to know why their money and time were so important.”

Scale and Deploy

As I said at the outset these are examples from the big leagues of national politics but I believe they can be scaled to meet the needs of state and local political machines as well. These examples will attract attention as your supporters participate and share this content with their networks. This participation, from simple shares to active donations, allows parties to identify their vote and welcome people into their sphere of influence.