Election 2013: Rockland or Riot

If you are conservative and like to play on the internet, there’s a fairly good chance that you started playing because of everything the Republican Party did and was doing wrong, and like most armchair quarterbacks, you needed a channel to vent since you had all the answers even though you had none of the experience and thought the people who had the experience were all old and stupid (whoa, long sentence).

This blog is about the time I got to put my money where my mouth is.

Picture it. Rockland County. 2013.

For the first time in twenty years there was an open seat for County Executive. Republican Legislator Ed Day decided to run for the seat, and The Casale Group was brought on as consultants. My area is digital media (or “the Facebook guy” as it’s more commonly known in political circles), and I was given carte blanche to use the internet as I saw fit. Yeah, I thought that was crazy too.

An effective digital media strategery in New York, at least in this narrator’s humble opinion, needs to address three major issues every Republican candidate in the state faces:

– Being a Republican in a state with a x to 1 voter enrollment disadvantage (with x ranging from “2” to “lol”)

– Running in the most expensive media market in the country.

– Getting around a media filter that, besides the usual bias against Republicans, likes to end every article mentioning how behind you are in money and the polls…and that’s if they even write about you in the first place.

That was the challenge. Now I had to find solutions.

Let me start by saying that as challenging as it is to win in New York, especially a race that everyone said you couldn’t win, it was less challenging being able to work with someone like Ed Day. As anyone who has worked on a campaign can tell you, you’re only as good and can only work as hard as your candidate, and on the campaign trail Ed is someone who quite simply can’t be stopped by conventional weapons. I won’t say it was easy, but it was definitely made easier. And most importantly, we won.

How we got there was by focusing on five key areas:

1. Remember the “social” in social media
With all the serious issues facing the country, the most successful piece of Barack Obama’s digital operation was a touching photo of him with his wife. People connect with you more on a personal level than a political one, and if that sounds frivolous, I agree with you along with most other Mitt Romney supporters. Don’t forget to have fun, connect with voters over similar interests, share interesting articles, etc.

There were two things we did with which I was particularly happy. One was an informal survey I posted asking people what their favorite pizza place was in Rockland. An hour later, I got an email from the campaign manager wondering why his iPhone was blowing up with notifications. The response was so insane, it turned into a monthly focus on local businesses. Every month we would ask people where their favorite place was (pizza, burger, ice cream) and the candidate would go to the place the won.

The other was #CATurday. Yes, it’s a common hashtag and posting cute pictures of kittens is why they invented an internet in the first place. We flipped it by choosing a few cats every Saturday who were up for adoption from the local animal shelter and encouraging people to visit. I believe a few even found their forever homes as a direct result. Say it with me now, “awwwww!”

2. Content is king
I was spoiled somewhat, because the candidate was so good at sending me content and getting me specific things I asked for, I almost had a problem of having too much. I originally was aiming for at least three good posts a day. I was averaging five with a ton left over for the next day. It’s not always that easy, but it’s extremely important because your content is all earned media. Everything you post on your social media networks goes directly to your followers who, if it’s compelling enough, will share it with their friends and family who then join your network themselves.

By focusing on this, finding the right picture or the right article or the right quote from the candidate, we increased our Facebook likes by 60% in under six months…all for free.

3. Creative content is kinger
The creative is something to which I find most Republicans don’t pay close enough attention. They share things based on the party’s talking points in a way to appeal to the party. That might work in a state like Texas or that might work if you’re a conservative non-profit, but when you live in a state like New York where there aren’t enough voters for you to win; you need to expand your base. Your goal with everything you share on Facebook shouldn’t be to appeal to your supporters who are going to like whatever you post in the first place. Your goal should be to appeal to THEIR friends and family members who aren’t supporters and most likely aren’t open to a Republican message, if they’re even political in the first place.

Memes and humor are always effective here, but on this campaign my favorite thing that we did was “An Election Day in the Life.” I followed the candidate around during the day, hitting every stop he did taking photos. Once an hour I’d post (Facebook/Twitter/Instagram) where we were and our supporters ate it up, sharing every post with their friends and family. It created an all day reminder that it was Election Day and get out and vote, without constantly beating them over the head with posts saying, “it’s Election Day…get out and vote!”

4. Post the right things at the right time
Metrics are your friend. Instead of just posting things whenever you get an email, use your stats to see when the best time to post things are. I doubled our “talking about this” number once I started paying closer attention to metrics.

5. Do it for as little money as possible
Outside of the occasional sponsored ad when we had a TV spot to push, I tried my best to spend as little as possible, if any money at all. Save the money for the big ticket items. Plus the less spent on ads means there is more available to pay your Digital Director, and I gots to eat.

That’s how we did it in 2013.

As for how we’re going to do it in 2014, to quote famed political consultant River Song, “Spoilers!”

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5 thoughts on “Election 2013: Rockland or Riot”

  1. Pizza is always a good conversation topic.
    Cats are always a good thing on the internet.
    Kinger is an excellent word.
    You write good.

    Unrelatedly, an event titled “Rockland or Riot” is where I met the cat I’m gonna marry, so methinks this “Rockland or Riot” title should be used frequently.

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