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Digital Politics: An interview with Colin Delany of Epolitics

Digital Politics

Our good friend Colin Delany at has released one of the most important reads of 2018/2019, ‘How to use the internet to change the world and win elections’. We caught up with him for a quick chat to mark the occassion.
digital politics

1. Hi Colin, let’s start out with an easy one, what are the big digital political trends in 2018 and into 2019?

Digital spend in politics

One big digital trend is simply that campaigns are paying attention to it! U.S. campaigns have historically spent a far lower percentage of their budgets on digital compared with commercial brand marketers. After the Trump campaign's large-scale Facebook outreach in 2016, candidates and the groups that work with them are beginning to put serious resources into social media and digital advertising.

Digital outreach and grassroots movements

Another trend: campaigns are trying to understand the integration between paid digital outreach and organic grassroots support. The question is sometimes framed as people-power vs. money, but it's more about how campaigns can use paid technology like targeted digital advertising at the same time that the campaign is providing tools to help supporters reach out to friends, family and neighbors. It's an area where data integration can help a campaign do more with less.

Cybersecurity for political campaigns

Finally, every campaign has to take cybersecurity and social media monitoring seriously. Bad actors are out there, ready to pounce, and we need to be ready to stop the attacks and counter the smears.

2. For campaigns on the run-in now to election day, what would be the three areas that they need to focus on in digital terms?

Field outreach

First, data-enabled field outreach. Nothing beats face-to-face voter contact, and data combined with canvassing apps and other grassroots tools makes it more efficient and effective.

Digital ads for campaigns

Second, digital advertising, including persuasion ads. A campaign might target reliable voters (those likely to turn out no matter what) with positive messages about the candidate, hoping to win a few hearts and minds, while simultaneously running Get Out The Vote ads at their core supporters. Some campaigns will also look into messaging that might dampen the enthusiasm of the opponent's more peripheral supporters.

Political fundraising

Finally, digital fundraising. Campaigns can and should raise money from their grassroots supporters right up to election day. Even super-late money can help pay for Facebook GOTV ads or Google search ads targeting people standing in line waiting to vote.

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