Campaigning Online

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Where to start      

Calendar - CC / Flickr

Calendar - CC / Flickr

Like so much else in party political campaigning there is no substitute for good preparation in online campaigns. As the previous two sections of this article have stressed, online activity is about presentation of individuals and policies, and it is also about the overall impression gained by the electorate. These are not matters that can be left for the short campaign in the weeks before the election itself. This is especially valid when it comes to traffic driven from search engines (see section 6 below), and a sustainable social media strategy also takes time.      

First and foremost try so set some objectives for any online campaign activity. SMART objectives work as well for the web as they do offline and are always a good place to start:      

Specific – Objectives should specify what they want to achieve.
Measurable – You should be able to measure whether you are meeting the objectives or not.
Achievable – Are the objectives you set achievable and attainable?
Realistic – Can you realistically achieve the objectives with the resources you have?
Time – When do you want to achieve the set objectives?      

It is perfectly acceptable to set objectives for the web alone – numbers of site visitors, or numbers of others linking to your site, for example – but do try to set something clear and measurable. All too often websites are created for no reason other than everyone else has one, so why not? More rigour is always welcome.      

Second, a clear staffing plan is vital. Who is going to do what online, according to what time frame? It cannot be expected that the candidate themselves will produce all content, or indeed sign off all content. Content displayed on a campaign site needs to be timely, accurate and interesting, so there is no place for complex sign off procedures.      

Having said that, web campaigning, and especially social media, works best when the individual seeking election is in some way involved in online activities. This might be a blog or Twitter account that is written by the individual politician, while other parts of a website are written by staff members. There is no correct mix of these aspects, although as a matter of preference I would always verge on the side of more candidate involvement wherever possible. Web campaigning does not demand great prose; instead the priority is the quality and immediacy of content.      

Above all it is vital to be honest in all web communications – there is no legitimate expectation that a candidate writes all his or her own content, but if a candidate is writing some of it, then find ways to highlight this – making it clear in a sidebar for example that this really is the candidate. Conversely, if a candidate simply has no personal interest in anything to do with the internet then it is questionable how much time should be invested online. A web campaign that is too distinct from the candidate’s own style and political aims will soon look hollow.      

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  1. Jocelyne 11/11/2010 at 11:15 | Permalink |

    I would just like to illustrate this article with what the EGP did during the launching of the latest campaign for the European elections.
    That is : three bloggers were selected and called “activists”. Each was blogging in English and in their mother tongue. Thus we had four languages : english, french, german and spanish. We were blogging on the EGP blog but also on Facebook and Twitter.
    In that way, the blogging was made very lively, and because we were men and women, from different countries, the approaches were different and could attract different people’s attention.
    I suppose we could do exactly the same thing in a local campaign with men and women, young people, and older people, locals and foreigners in the area, people working in offices and people working in factories etc.
    The weblink to my blog where you can find the blogging during the European elections: