Digital Engagement Strategies You Can Learn From Hillary Clinton
Do you remember the time Instagram and Snapchat played a deciding factor in a national election? I don't either. So why is my newsfeed full of think-pieces touting 2016 the year of the first Instagram Election? Jumping off of Obama’s 2012 victory and the way his campaign embraced digital media, Republicans and Democrats alike are leveraging new media and ephemeral social platforms to attain the elusive youth vote. But there may be more to it than meets the eye.
A certain Clinton running in 2016 made waves earlier this year when she was the first politician ever to have a Pinterest account showcasing her gift ideas, affinity for pant-suits, and vintage throwbacks to her career in the public eye. Her Snapchat stories are similar in nature, but they also provide a keen insight into how Clinton's changing the game.
Data ≠ Digital
On September 2nd, Hillary Clinton’s campaign posted a 50 second virtual tour of her campaign office on Snapchat. The Snapchat story walked us around the different departments in her hip Brooklyn office. The office is vast, but what stands out most through the drywall and exhausted yuppie staffers, are the breadth and diversity of departments: Digital, Analytics, Communication, and Paid Media being just a few.
Historically, data experts and digital strategists have been relegated to the back of the office. Obama's 2008 campaign was different in positioning a digital strategist at the same rung as a Field Director, and Clinton 2016 too puts Digital front and centre of her campaign.
In addition, campaigns often conflate the two: Data and Digital as one, a sure way to frustrate a data expert. Wading through the witticisms of the Snapchat story, it’s not difficult to understand that Clinton’s campaign means business. Clinton's campaign demonstrates a shrewd understanding of how data drives decision making. This is a fundamental shift from when data was either static (voter files, zip codes, etc.) or an output. Now, in the information age, data is not only everywhere and painfully ubiquitous but it is in the driving seat guiding us campaigners when we choose a subject line, a call to action text, or even our lunch order.
Sorry, not sorry.
Time for some tough love, most politicians aren't in charge of their social media accounts. Although this often leads to questions about transparency and authenticity, sometimes candidates’ schedules are just too jam-packed for them to manage it personally.
What Hillary Clinton’s campaign does is be unapologetic. We know that Hillary is busy and often at not-so-fun public committee meetings and community consultations, so her campaign’s Snapchat strategy often features highlights instead of live stream. With this behind-the-scenes perspective on the campaign, those who follow Clinton on any other social channels are rewarded with original content. Those who don't are intrigued.
"You may have seen that I recently launched a Snapchat account," she said. "I love it. I love it. Those messages disappear all by themselves."
Are you there voter? It’s me, Hillary.
The most important thing about digital campaigning is listening. And what a coincidence that the most important thing about being a politician is listening too!
When running a campaign that advances a political candidate, you better be listening to your constituency, that’s just, like, the rules of democracy. And Hillary does just that.
By using a language that is vernacular to Snapchat, Clinton’s campaign demonstrates an understanding of the audience, the platform, and the message. Similar to retweeting on Twitter, Clinton's Snapchat broadcasts stories relevant to their audience and stories shared by their supporters—see Viola Davis’ win in this year’s Emmy’s or her ability to Nae Nae.
Above all, listening is key. Also, it's a super easy way to generate content.
URL to IRL
Snapchat never really hoped to be the platform to change the world. Although that never stopped it from recording and inspiring engagement on the ground, whether it be during the Supreme Court’s legalization of gay marriage or the Greek referendum.
A platform that’s ephemeral in nature, doesn’t want to make you do something you don’t want to do, and frankly, doesn’t expect you to sign a pledge or donate. Instead, Snapchat leaves an impression.
Understanding the platform in addition to streamlining your call to action is key to engaging your audience. Hillary, herself, knows that you are checking out her Snapchat stories while you're watching BoJack Horseman. Instead, tailor your call to action to the audience—more on that from Taylor Swift.
Clinton's campaign uses polls (like the one above) and short video clips from her website, in an effort to convert Snapchat users into website sessions.
The power to get those who haven’t traditionally been involved into engaged citizens is palpable. Specifically, youth; this summer more 18-24 year olds watched the GOP debate on Snapchat than they did on TV. And before you go weep about the state of humanity, stop and ask why.
And as always, remember: