What do you mean there's no website?
March 8, 2015 10:18 PM   Subscribe

Is it a new trend to conduct a political campaign without a website and just use social media? How does an old-school web person adjust?

I recently started to volunteer with a local issue-based political campaign. (Not a candidate). I offered to help with social media, graphics and web design. Today I was told that they had decided not to have a website and do everything via facebook and Twitter. This was recommended by a focus group they convened. I was stunned. Maybe it's generational, but I expect social media posts to lead me to a website with more information. I think this is a bad strategy, but maybe I am missing something and this is a proven trend.
Have you run a campaign like this? What are the advantages and pitfalls? Are there good resources or strategy guides out there? How do I get over the fact that this goes against what I have always done so I can be a productive member of the team?
(The election is in a month, so not a lot of time to change course. I think this is how it's going to be.)
posted by anonymous to Computers & Internet (12 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
So I was writing HTML in 1996 and I think several years ago Facebook passed the point where it was far better to have a decent presence there than a mediocre website. No worries about hosting, easy to measure engagement, and free. Now, if you're offering to host and develop the site yourself, that calculus may switch.
posted by wnissen at 10:35 PM on March 8, 2015

Oh geez. Have they given up on actually trying to convince people that their position(s) have merit? Because I doubt that Facebook is conducive to presenting any kind of complex idea.
posted by amtho at 10:36 PM on March 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

i know that i prefer to know things via social media (Even a tumblr) than a website, it suggests a kind of responsiveness. 34, far left
posted by PinkMoose at 10:36 PM on March 8, 2015

As a millennial who works in product marketing for a leading tech company, I do think it's pretty strange to run any kind of campaign on social media without a landing page or website to link back to. Not sure what their goals are, but any political campaign would want to fundraise, no? A website is needed to do that to conduct those transactions.

Also a website makes it more legitimate. I would feel more comfortable donating with some webiste. Finally, it is a great way to ramp up other (potentially) unforeseen marketing advantages - such as search engine optimization.

But since you say there is no time to change course....

With only social media I would still try to have some kind of universal landing page - whether this is hosted on FB or not. A simple coded up landing page shouldn't take longer than a day assuming that the messaging and the graphics of the campaign are already figured out.

I would investigate paid ads on FB and Twitter but being super careful about who you target (in terms of interests and geography) to control spend and ROI.

Graphics are super important on social. The more high quality and innovative they are, the more likely people will engage and have others see it. Always attach graphics to each post. Video and photo with every post has higher click throughs on FB and Twitter than not.

Consider some hashtag for the campaign.

Ask people to do something in return for your post - like "Share this if you support x" or "Donate here: x" or ask a question and the additional comments will boost visibility.

Finally, post regularly - at least twice a day.
posted by pando11 at 10:41 PM on March 8, 2015 [3 favorites]

Got to have a website for things like longer position papers, staff bio/background, seo, etc.
posted by davidmsc at 10:44 PM on March 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

Also because YOU own and control it. FB and social media are great -- but they can change the rules whenever they want to.
posted by davidmsc at 10:45 PM on March 8, 2015 [2 favorites]

My experience is that people under 40 years of age or so prefer facebook/twitter/linkedin/tumblr. This is something that's taken place in the last four years or so. There are paypal/donation apps available to use right on the facebook page.

However, even a basic brochure website is helpful to people 40+.

I help run a small local non-profit and our posts on facebook see way more light of day and action than anything on the website. The fb page is the thing the local reporters and media outlet follow too.

It appears the local candidates are mostly sticking to putting action items on facebook and having a simple one page website that links to their social media pages.
posted by fluffy battle kitten at 10:46 PM on March 8, 2015

With only a month it is better to spend precious resources where they will have the most impact. From my experience working on political campaigns sites are nice, but they don't mean a whole lot when time and resources are scarce. I would double the attention paid to social media before I made a website.
posted by munchingzombie at 10:58 PM on March 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

You can have your basic brochure website on Tumblr - it's enough of a hybrid to do what you want to do.
posted by divabat at 11:38 PM on March 8, 2015

I don't see this as that unusual, and it's definitely more of a trend in the commercial realm.

The way I see it is that there is a contingent who are allergic to social media, and you'll want a way to reach them. (A Tumblr can work for that, though.) The flip side, though, is that there is a huge contingent on social media who, no matter how you format things, will never ever click through to your website.

It is important to get a handle on what social media work best in your area. Around here, for example, there's hardly anybody on Twitter, so that's out.

The biggest issue I have with a social media dependency is that you sort of only see a certain type of social-media-engaged person, and it's difficult to know how well that engagement transfers to e.g. donation, event attendance, and, you know, voting. It's a bit like if you made all your campaign decisions based on the fifteen grizzled politicos who write letters to the editor in your town, or on the newspaper comments section. You only see a slice that way. It's a weakness to be sure.

But with a website, even with good analytics, you're flying almost completely blind. People read, they leave, and that's all you have to go on.
posted by dhartung at 12:45 AM on March 9, 2015

I've definitely seen this before with very low profile local races. I guess it's better than not having an online presence at all. There are ways to do this -- the good ones will have frequent posts with links to media coverage about the candidate, or to outrage-filter articles related to the candidate's platform with notes saying "we must work together to end this horrible practice!" or whatever. (I think posting on FB twice a day might be overkill for a local election, most people don't have that level of interest -- it's fine for Twitter though.) The bad ones are updated every three weeks with the information that we were just endorsed by the district 6 city councilwoman.
posted by phoenixy at 12:54 AM on March 9, 2015 [1 favorite]

I feel like the website gives me better tools to engage about an issue on social media. When I want to challenge an opposing viewpoint, only the longer form website content will give me the stats, research, etc to do so effectively.

But maybe this particular issue doesn't need that? I don't know. I think it may make more sense if it's a really short campaign where you're focusing only on emotional arguments to sway and longer term ones will have the time to rely more on facts. And with it being short-term, there might not be very much money, which would lean towards just social media.
posted by Kurichina at 7:52 AM on March 9, 2015

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