A laptop and pieces of paper on a table- digital marketing for elections

Digital Marketing For Elections: A Guide For 2022

Many years ago, people relied on traditional media to inform, educate, entertain, and influence, but today the world has shifted to the digital space. Everything is taking place online. Creating and growing businesses, online learning, e-banking, and now politicians use digital marketing for elections. 

So how can digital marketing be used to influence an election? Platforms like social media and google have been an important digital marketing strategy that has helped political candidates like Donald Trump win elections. A simple post on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram can elicit numerous reactions from people and help build a conversation around your brand. Knowing your voter database, develop content for your target audience, and grow your brand awareness are tips for a successful digital campaign strategy. 

What Is Political Advertising?

Political advertising is a campaign that allows candidates to directly convey their message to voters, increase supporter engagement and influence their political stand. The most used types of political advertising include; TV, radio, print, video, and social media. Digital marketing for elections includes using Ads that might be run on Google, Facebook, or Instagram. Doing this helps you reach audiences that might not have been paying attention to you, build a conversation around your brand, and set your campaign rolling. 

Advantages of Political Ads

  • Political ads have been a game-changer when using digital marketing for elections. They have helped politicians reach a wider audience including those not interested in politics or even those in marginalised areas.
  • Social Media advertising helps campaigns target specific voters with tailored content that is not possible for media such as Radio or TV. 
  • Running Ads on digital platforms helps you measure the effectiveness of your ad by giving you precise and detailed results. These analytics help you track your campaign and know which type of content is attracting the most web traffic. 
  • Online digital campaigns help you update information instantly, whether through your campaign website, mass emails, texts, blogs, or social networking websites like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
  • Using digital marketing for elections is much more affordable compared to traditional means such as holding political rallies. 
  • There are different types of Ads that you can choose for your digital marketing campaigns giving you versatility.

Disadvantages of Political Ads 

  • Despite Ads helping political candidates have a wider and diverse audience, they may not be effective in rural areas. Some people may not have access to the internet due to lack of smartphones or electricity. Those geographic areas are better served by more traditional mediums like mail, TV, and terrestrial radio. 
  • Too much micro targeting might make you miss potential voters. It also poses a threat to an individual’s privacy because Google and Facebook use someone’s data to build psychographic profiles to target them with political ads accurately. Micro targeting also increases the chance for manipulation and the amplification of disinformation. For example, Trump’s campaign in 2016 was argued to dissuade black voters from voting.
  • There are still challenges in regulating political ads on social media. There is no final ruling on guidelines, and a platform like Facebook is still updating its policies. This makes it possible for politicians to use personal information without authorisation, distribute ads to create division, or share false information. 
  • The credibility of information. In the US, people discovered that some of the ads on social media weren’t coming from candidates at all. A report from the Senate Select Intelligence Committee disclosed that the Russian government spent about $100,000 on Facebook ads to interfere with the U.S. presidential election. 
  • Political ads pose the threat of information overload to audiences. 

Why Do Politicians Need Paid Advertising?

  • To engage the youth who are more active and opinionated on social media.
  • To create a positive social media presence and increase the political party’s awareness, what they stand for and what they are willing to do. 
  • To get a wider reach and convert followers to potential voters.
  • To build an honest relationship and engage with their supporters.
  • Using digital marketing for elections helps political candidates measure the effectiveness of their digital campaign strategies. 

Political Advertising Platforms 

To get your message to voters, you can use Google, Bing, and social media platforms. Facebook, Instagram, Reddit, and Snapchat allow political ads, but Twitter, Pinterest, Linkedin, Spotify, TikTok, and Amazon prohibit political ads. 

Platforms that allow political Ads Platforms that don’t allow political Ads 
GoogleTwitter 
BingPinterest 
FacebookLinkedIn
InstagramSpotify 
RedditTikTok
SnapchatAmazon
Platforms that allow and deny political Ads

Type of Ads That Can Be Used for Political Campaigns

1. Search Engine Advertising 

SEA  is a type of advertising where adverts in images or texts are displayed on search engines such as Google, Bing, or Yahoo. This type of advertising improves the brand awareness of your political party. 

2. Native Advertising 

Native Advertising is the use of paid ads that match the content or platform in which they appear. Because of people blocking ads or ignoring them, native ads are kind of incognito. They don’t look like ads in the first place. It’s like finding an advertised detergent on a ‘How To Clean Your House’ article. 

3. Gmail Advertising 

These are ads that appear in the promotion and the social tabs of your Gmail inbox. These ads can either lead you to the politicians’ website or expand to the size of an email that can be used to meet a variety of advertising goals. 

In February 2021, Google announced that Gmail ads would be “read-only,” meaning advertisers won’t be able to create new Gmail campaigns or make changes to existing campaigns. They will have to create a Discovery campaign that allows you to expand your reach from Gmail to other Google-owned surfaces, which reach 3 billion people monthly and include YouTube and Discover.

4. Video Advertising 

It Is a process of promoting your policies or political message through videos across online channels. Video advertising is a good marketing strategy because it helps engage your audience, especially when raising brand awareness and increasing supporter engagement.

5. Facebook Ads 

These are messages that people place on Facebook to enable them to reach a wider target audience. Facebook ads are important because Facebook is the biggest social network worldwide, with roughly 2.89 billion monthly active users and more than 7 million advertisers. 

Facebook Ads Manager helps you create and monitor ads. To do this, you need to stick to its advertising policies and community standards. One should not discriminate against people based on race, colour, ethnicity, religion, and sex. Controversial political or social issues should not be published as well as providing false or misleading information. It would be best if you do not violate Facebook’s advertising policies.

6. Instagram Ads

Instagram is one of the most popular social networks. It has roughly one billion monthly active users and uses Facebook’s demographic data to serve ads to the appropriate parties. Companies use Instagram ads for advertising themselves through pictures and visual content.

Different types of Instagram ads can be used in your political campaign including; including; Image ads, video ads, carousel ads, and collection ads. You need to have a Facebook advertising account or an Instagram for Business account to advertise on Instagram. The ads are managed by Instagram Ads Manager or Facebook Power Monitor. To improve your brand’s awareness, you need to inspire new audiences, set a budget that works, track your ad performance, use simple and flexible tools to meet your goals, and connect with customers. 

7. Twitter 

Twitter prohibits the promotion of political ads. Despite this ban, one can use organic content to push for brand awareness and spread their political message. You can drive traffic to your website by sharing links or have a hashtag to build a conversation around your brand. Engaging with your audiences by replying to their comments is a sure way to build a good relationship with them. Talk about the current news topics, your political party, and what change you want to bring. 

The Relationship Between Public Relations and Paid Advertising in Politics

Public Relations is a strategy whose aim is to create and maintain the good image of an organization. Public Relations aims at building a trust-based relationship between the brand and its customer, mainly through media exposure and coverage. In politics, Public Relations is about reputation. The reputation of a politician says a lot about them and what they stand for. A politician’s online presence has a massive impact on how people view them. If a politician is always trending for the wrong reasons, people will not want to be associated with him or her. They will want an effective leader with less drama and controversy. 

On the other hand, paid advertising aims to influence or persuade supporters to vote for a particular political candidate. Let us look at the differences between the two before we see how they marry each other.

Differences Between PR and Advertising 

Advertising Public Relations 
Paid media. You pay for an advertisement to be placed in the media. Earned media. You earn the trust of the public through press releases, social media, press conferences, etc.
It builds exposure for the sale of your services. It aims to maintain a positive image of the company in the media.
The advertiser has complete control of the ad. i.e., when and how it will be displayed to the media.The company can pitch the story but has no control over how the media uses the information. 
The advertisement of a product or service can be aired over and over, depending on the budget.In PR, the story is published only once but in different ways depending on the different types of media.
Advertisers can lie about products or services for the sake of influencing buyers. The credibility is higher because the third-party validation improves the credibility. 

Despite the differences, Advertising and Public Relations go hand in hand. Both are used to inform and influence the public. PR helps candidates gain more exposure, deal with political crises that may come up along the way, as well as know which type of content to use on social media platforms. Political PR includes the planning and executing strategies for internal and external publics to achieve desired goals; such information includes media and Image management. 

In digital marketing for elections, it’s almost impossible to create and sustain an excellent public image without paid advertising. This is because paid advertising widens your reach and builds your brand awareness. If you don’t have an audience, who will see your content or vote for you?

Political Influencer Marketing

This type of marketing uses influential people such as celebrities and media personalities to spread politicians’ messages and garner support for their campaigns. It allows them to reach a younger audience that is increasingly resistant to traditional advertising tactics. Political influencer marketing is effective in digital marketing for elections because people are more likely to trust an influencer than a politician or a political party. This way, your brand is exposed to a wider audience. 

You can also use a blog influencer whose source of content is blog posts or a social media influencer whose knowledge and expertise is in politics. They may use marketing campaigns such as; sponsored social media content, guest blogging, and brand ambassador programs. 

How Influencers Help Politicians in Their Political Campaigns 

  • Influencers have a chance in influencing the voters political stand. They can use Facebook, Whatsapp, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, or blog posts to increase the candidate’s awareness. To reach younger audiences, younger influencers can be used. It’s important to note that their content doesn’t necessarily have to be political. Politicians can work with influencers to show their day-to-day life, cooking abilities, travels, and what they do for fun. 
  • They can also create catchy songs to praise a particular candidate, their accomplishments over time, and why people should vote for them. For example, Ben Githae’s Tano Tena was the biggest political song in 2017 that convinced people to vote for Uhuru and Ruto. 
  • People love political rallies, and when famous influencers are attending one, there’s a huge possibility they’ll attract many people with them. More people are likely to be turned into fans and supporters in a huge turnout, hence more votes. 

When looking for an influencer, it is vital to know their audience and values and whether their brand matches your political campaign values or content. Remember, the influencer’s following size doesn’t always matter, with people more concerned about quality over quantity. 

Micro-influencer Marketing in Political Campaigns

Organizations can partner with influencers who have lower follower counts in a given niche. They may have thousands or tens of thousands of followers. These influencers have an authentic following and a higher engagement because they take time to interact with every comment and query on their posts. This engagement helps build higher degrees of trust in the influencer. Micro influencer marketing is also more affordable and aims for more targeted audiences. 

Sometimes these influencers are composed of everyday people active on a community level, i.e., religious leaders and small business owners. The Biden Haris Marketing campaign used nurses, teachers, essential workers, truck drivers, and dads to distribute some 15,000 Instagram Stories on social media, achieving an overall 305 per cent higher click-through rate and a 1,600 per cent higher engagement rate on Facebook than traditional celebrity influencers.

Using digital marketing for elections may prompt you to go for high-end influencers with millions of followers, but balancing the two is important. Micro-influencers will build momentum for a campaign and reach a segment of the population who may be turned off to politics and who may not be inclined to vote. 

Best Practices For Political Influencer Marketing 

  • Timing and targeting. Influencer posts should be well-timed to start campaigning early and keep the momentum going. Campaigns that utilise geographical targeting can be highly effective when promoting to local audiences.
  • Design content that relates with people. Content that address the issues people face like health, unemployment, corruption, infrastructure. Problems people want to be solved. 
  • Use honest, credible, and up-to-date content that adds value to your target audience.
  • Know which age group you will be working with to curate content fit for your target audience. This will help you determine which social platforms to use and which type of influencer to work with. Working with an influencer requires you to have a campaign contract. Both influencers and politicians should clearly understand the expectations and relevant details, like content deliverables, copyright ownerships, exclusivities, and payments.
  • Create a budget to help you know which influencers you can afford and those you can’t. 

What is Branded Content?

Branded Content is a marketing strategy that involves developing creative content linked to a politician or a political party to market their brand. An influencer creates this content for the political candidate. Branded content posts have a “Paid Partnership With…” under their social media handle, making them easily recognizable. This type of strategy ensures better transparency of paid collaborations and clears any viewer’s confusion.

 The Benefits of Using Branded Content

  • It creates a personal and emotional connection between the supporter and the influencer. This helps them develop trust and confidence in the political candidate. 
  • It improves brand positioning because of a better audience reach, making them remember the brand for a long time. 
  • It is non-invasive. It attracts supporters naturally and makes them want to get closer to the political candidate. 
  • It saves time, money and resources because someone else is creating valuable content for the politician. 
  • Branded content is highly shareable. This type of content has a huge possibility of going viral and hence reaching a wider audience.
  • Branded content seeks to generate conversation around a candidate or their party.. Therefore, the key metrics to measure the success of branded content tends to focus on the notoriety and the number of mentions.  

What To Consider When Using Branded Content

Facebook

Facebook’s branded content policies require you to adhere to Facebook’s advertising policies and Facebook’s Community Standards. It also prohibits the spread of controversial political or social issues or crises exploitatively for commercial purposes. 

Here are some restrictions to comply with regarding branded content; 

  • Branded content may only be posted where the branded content tool is available, such as Facebook Stories or Instagram posts.
  • Don’t include pre, mid, or post-roll ads in videos or audio content.
  • Don’t include banner ads in videos or images.
  • Don’t include title cards within a video’s first three seconds. Interstitial cards outside of a video’s first three seconds, such as mid cards or end cards, must not persist for longer than three consecutive seconds and must not be included within Facebook Stories or Instagram Stories.
Instagram 

Instagrams policies require an influencer to tag their business partner in their branded content posts. This means that these accounts have a commercial relationship with the business partner mentioned and that they were compensated in some way for the post. Note that Instagram will need you to read their branded content policies. Branded content posts are not the same as the ads you see on Instagram. You can create branded content ads in Ads Manager if the creator has allowed you to promote their content.

Types Of Content To Use in Digital Marketing For Elections 

You can use different types of content depending on your target audience and what resonates best with them. These may be images, videos, or graphic design. 

Tips For Successful Political Ads

  • Include your campaign logo. This way, people will identify with your campaign, raise brand awareness and show consistency with other marketing materials. 
  • Use a Call To Action. A CTA is a statement that tells voters what you want them to do. If you are focused on getting more votes, you can ask your supporters to  support you on the election day or encourage voters to check their registration status. 
  • Get your campaign verified and authorised. Verification allows social media users to identify ads that deal with politics and know who paid for them and whether the ad was authorised by a candidate or campaign.
  • Match your colour schemes. Using consistent colours in your website, logos and ads, will help improve the visibility of your political ads. 
  • Use more visual content such as videos and infographics. This type of content is more appealing and increases the chances of people sharing it hence more voters. 
  • Storytelling is an essential tool in digital marketing for elections. It makes your message more memorable, and connects with your audience on an emotional level. 
  • Use Factual information before publishing. False claims and misinformation are difficult to contain once they are in the public domain. To have a good social presence, you need to steer clear of such. 
  • Make an emotional appeal. When you evoke strong emotional feelings in people, they are more likely to relate and connect with you. 
  • Post consistently. Sharing updated, valuable content will help you remain relevant among your target audience.
  • Post updates from the right account. Campaign posts shouldn’t be posted from personal media accounts. This might cause confusion or embarrassment. One way to keep everything separate is to use a separate browser for just campaign posts.
  • Secure your account to secure your information and prevent unauthorised log in.

Examples Of Best Digital Political Campaigns

Kamala Harris Campaign 

Kamala Harris - digital marketing for elections
Vice President Kamala Harris takes her official portrait Thursday, March 4, 2021, in the South Court Auditorium in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building at the White House. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

Her ad, Me Maya And Mom used storytelling and emotional appeal to connect with her supporters. It gained much attention from the public because she combined her life story and her political agenda to engage with people. Harris also dived into her 3 am agenda – which speaks to the concerns she and many other Americans have- the issues that keep regular people up at three in the morning. The Issues she addressed and the solutions she offered prompted people to vote for her. 

Barack Obama Campaign

Former President Barack Obama at a political rally

Obama’s 2012 campaign, It Begins With Us, went viral and gained huge popularity. The team reportedly spent $9.3 million on technology services and consulting. They used technology to measure their success, then used that data to tweak their techniques and provide even more value to voters and more success for the campaign.

His text message campaign helped him engage with the community deeply by allowing them to text questions over the same thread and receive answers. He made his supporters feel valued and appreciated by making them feel part of an exclusive community since he prioritized his followers by conveying information to them. The campaign was able to drive over 3 million sign-ups and mobilize them during the campaign. A lot of influencers also campaigned for him, a move that pushed people to vote for him.

Donald Trump Campaign 

Former President Donald Trump speaks at a rally at the Lorain County Fairgrounds, Saturday, June 26, 2021, in Wellington, Ohio. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

The former President used social Media, especially Twitter, to raise concerns and draw the people’s attention. He used personalized ads on Facebook and Instagram to influence the people at large. His strategies were more inclined in a humorous way as he is known for that. There were also unskippable ads on Youtube and other streaming platforms where the public had to watch his videos. 

Political Ads Dos and Donts 

Dos

  • Provide the clearest disclosure of who has paid for the ad, both on the landing page and within the ads site name. 
  • Keep your content positive and neutral. Fact-check your information before publishing or sharing it. 
  • Use a close-up image of your candidate to make your ad more appealing. 
  • Focus on issues that align with your supporters and potential voters.

Donts

  • Use false or untrustworthy information to attack an opponent. It makes people like you less. 
  • Argue with trolls or respond to offensive comments. Debating with them publicly is time-consuming and pointless because you won’t change their mind. Don’t sweat it if you have mostly positive feedback and a few haters.  
  • Be irrelevant or indirect. Use content that matches your brand, and that has a call to action service. 
  • Focus too much on your competitor. 

How To Run An Organic Political Campaign

You can use free tools provided by each social network to build a social community and interact with it. Running an organic political campaign can be done by sharing posts, responding to comments, asking questions, or going live on either Facebook or Instagram. You can also unique or clever hashtags like #WinWitrhMichael in your Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram posts. Polls are also important in getting a public opinion on an issue related to your political campaign. When writing posts, it is important to define the goal of each post. Is your goal to obtain general visibility, or do you hope to register more people as voters? Once you’ve identified your goal, you should choose a call to action accordingly. You can also create events and invite as many people as possible. 

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a powerful tool in creating content that will match what your audience is looking for. The first step is to define the keywords you want to associate with your campaign. The challenge for organic political SEO is associating the campaign with key political issues like health, jobs, crime, and the environment.

Conclusion 

Using digital marketing for elections effectively reaches a wider audience and turns potential supporters into voters. Improvising this kind of political campaign in your election will increase your chances of winning an election. Looking at political candidates like Kamala Harris and Barack Obama, the use of social media, videos, and text messages brought them close to the people and helped them win the election. Having the best digital marketing strategies will put your foot closer to becoming a winner.

What are the benefits of using social media in political campaigns?

Social media helps target a massive audience. The results are traceable and measurable. You get a direct response from the audience. It’s easy to edit a campaign if required. Creating an account to kickstart your campaign is free. 

Are there political digital marketing agencies in Kenya?

Yes. Several marketing agencies in Kenya help politicians with their campaigns. These are the people responsible for coming up with digital marketing strategies that increase their chance of winning an election.

What are the disadvantages of using digital marketing for elections?

Online advertising campaigns and creating marketing content can take up a lot of time. Negative feedback or criticism can damage your brand reputation. Digital spaces can be compromised due to security issues and information may land in the wrong hands.

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