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Four 2016 Presidential Campaign Digital Strategies Startups Can Use

The Huffington Post The Huffington Post 3/11/2015 Ryan J. Davis

Modern presidential campaigns are startups.
A successful, national campaign now spends over a billion dollars in their first eighteen months. They begin with only a handful of key staffers and within a year might have nearly a thousand employees nationwide. Campaigns and startups have common concerns and challenges, so they can learn from each other's strategies.
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Digital marketing is one area where presidential campaigns particularly excel. As a veteran of Howard Dean's 2004 Presidential campaign, widely considered the first "modern" digital campaign, and as Social Media Director at Blue State Digital, known for digital contributions on Obama's 2008 and 2012 runs, I've seen these strategies develop firsthand. I've even had the opportunity to apply them to candidates in France and the United Kingdom.
The current Presidential primaries are, again, hotbeds of internet marketing and organizing innovation. Here are four things startups can learn about digital from today's candidates. Click through any of the links to learn on each point.
1. Measure Engagement, Not Followers: It's not just about how many followers, but about how engaged they are. Campaigns, much like startups, rely on engaged users to share their messages. Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton both have similar amounts of followers, but Bernie's are more engaged and likely to take action. Donald Trump's followers are the most engaged of any of the candidates, but lots of the sentiment is negative.
2. Harness and Monitor Organic Digital Energy: When Reddit users started their own Bernie Sanders For President subreddit, the campaign didn't try to take it over, instead they reached out and began coordinating with the founders. Now the campaign works closely with the Reddit community, in an authentic and credible way, and regularly monitors the conversations to respond to questions on policy and politics. They have even leveraged these users for relatively complicated digital tasks.
Not to be outdone, Clinton's campaign jumps on the trends that their base is engaged in.
3. The Right Content for the Right Audience: Young voters are vital in a general election and campaigns are vying for their eyeballs. For the Clinton Campaign, this means a true content strategy for social networks like Snapchat and Spotify. It also means trying, though perhaps not always succeeding, to use Millennial slang and emoticons. If you're going to use networks like Snapchat, it's smart for the content to match the channel's tone.
4. Let Your Staff Amplify Your Message: The Clinton campaign has empowered staff from top to bottom to amplify their messages on their own social channels. They also send occasional emails to especially influential supporters asking them to share key links. Making sure your staff and key supporters know when and what to share is vital for success of specific campaigns like Kickstarter.
Originally posted on's Blog. is an investor in young innovators solving important problems.

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