What the 2016 Presidential Election Can Teach Us About Content Management Strategy

You either, love, hate, or love to hate politics. I’m personally in the first camp. I can’t get enough of the charade of endless pandering. Election night is a party in our house, where we stay up late and mark the states Red or Blue as the results come in amid a flurry of wine and snacks. We live in a swing state, THE swing state that makes or breaks elections this year, so I’ve been following the primary season with a close eye.

Campaign strategists and their staff are the ultimate experts in content management. Each and every content decision they make hinges on tipping that one extra voter over to their side. You’ll never meet anyone who’s more insanely qualified to convert and retain prospective voters. No matter where you lie on the spectrum, you can learn a lot about content management based on the antics surrounding the 2016 election. Let’s explore the Dos and Don’ts of your business strategy, based on the frolics of the four major remaining candidates.

Know Your Target Audience (and Customize From There)

The Ohio primary was a few weeks ago, and the night before, I was out enjoying a walk with my husband and our two children. We were snaking our way through the subdivision next to ours (which I would classify as a solidly middle class neighborhood) when we came upon a Bernie Sanders supporter, knocking on doors and trying to wheedle votes out of its inhabitants. We made eye contact as she passed, she gave us a quick nod and a prerequisite compliment about the preciousness of our 6 week old. And she was on her way to the next door.

“Why didn’t she stop us?” I stage-whispered to my husband.

“I mean, look at us,” he joked. “Twenty-something millennials with two young children? They think we’re Bernie’s bread and butter. We’re not worth the effort.”

My husband made his comment in jest, but he speaks to a valid point. Each candidate has a core demographic, and success in the primaries (and the subsequent general election) hinges on the conversion of those who are just outside of it. Bernie Sanders already polls well with Millennials, while Hillary Clinton consistently garners approval from wealthier Democrats and moderates. Appealing to the middle and upper-middle class voters in this neighborhood would be more beneficial to the Sanders campaign (spoiler alert: it didn’t work out so well for the Vermont senator).

Do’s and Don’ts: Do know your core demographic, based on your unique business ideology. Don’t be afraid to customize your content to attract those sitting just outside the base. Stretching a little beyond your comfort zone can increase your conversion rate.

Use Social Media Selectively and Deliberately

Like 2012, web experts predict the 2016 election will be won on Web 2.0, especially via social media. According to a recent study, candidates are planning on allocating 9% of their campaign funds to social media initiatives, to the tune of $1 billion. Candidates are using these funds to tailor their messaging, hoping to woo the electorate.

Since it’s primary season, Netflix decided to release Season 4 of one of its hottest series, House of Cards, last month. Anyone else catch the SEO twist in the election plot? For those who don’t binge watch 13 episodes, Frank Underwood and his opponent both dig into search engine query data to guide their campaigns (to phrase it nicely and without spoilers).

Frank and Senator Conway’s methods were decidedly less savory, but today’s candidates are likewise leveraging Web 2.0, but in this case to showcase their authenticity. In the interest of showing the American public their truest selves, candidates are taking to YouTube, according to Lee Dunn, election campaign manager at Google. Using the outlet, they can appeal to the public without a media filter, he explained.

Candidates also regularly take to Twitter and Facebook to sound off on current events. Clinton, for example, signs off on posts with an “-H” to denote that the thoughts are coming directly from her, not her campaign staff. And Donald Trump – he’s not shy about voicing his opinions on virtually any subject. He’s essentially made lampooning other candidates a “yooge” part of his brand, and his followers eagerly devour every morsel.

Do’s and Don’ts: Content may be king, but more isn’t always better. When it comes to social media, you can have too much of a good thing. We all have that Facebook friend who shares every single meme they come across. Don’t be that person.

Do post things that you’re passionate about. Tell your followers all about your eco-conscious business practices or showcase an issue that applies directly to your company philosophy. Don’t be afraid to show some personality. In the virtual world, people crave a little genuine interaction.

Invest Some Money

If there’s one thing that politicians are good at, it’s spending someone else’s money. And I’m not taking the tone of that coworker who sits at the cubicle next to yours, lamenting the practice of seedy elected officials flushing your hard-earned tax dollars down the toilet. I’m referring to sheer amount of dollars that go into a campaign. As of March 20, 2016, Democrats had raised $317 million and Republicans $599.4 million, just in the primaries. NPR predicts that candidates will spend $4.4 billion on election ads by November. Presidential hopefuls aren’t afraid to shell out the cash because the ROI is pretty clear: arguably the most powerful job position in the world.

Do’s and Don’ts: Do allocate a fair amount of cash toward your content, including social media and website surveillance. But don’t blow your entire small business nest egg on a flashy piece of tech or service. Do spend, but spend smart. And consider the pros and cons before you crowdfund – the outcome will vary greatly depending on your brand.

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Sarah Voightman

Sarah is a displaced Michigander who currently calls suburban Cleveland home. When not reading or writing, she can be found navigating the tumultuous waters of parenthood and dreaming of returning to her beloved Mitten State.

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