Why do Campaigns Need a Digital GOTV Culture?

 The growing number of digital tools available to campaigns of all budgets is an incredible boon to campaign success. However, many campaign consultants seem unaware of the usefulness or poor at utilizing these tools. 

These campaign managers miss out on opportunities to use campaign data and digital systems in vital GOTV operations. A culture of digital GOTV needs to be adopted by campaign consultants before the benefits can be fully realized.

What is Digital GOTV?

Digital GOTV is a term coined by the Obama campaign as part of their data-driven strategy to win elections. Digital tools have been used in past grassroots efforts, but Barack Obama's 2008 presidential run was the first time these tactics were so closely tied to the success of a campaign. The 2012 re-election campaign built upon this data and ran a very efficient ground game with voter engagement strategies, out-performing the Romney campaign when it came to GOTV efforts.

Reasons why campaigns need a culture of digital GOTV

  • Access to tools so they are productive
  • Teach all incoming staff and volunteers a way for the campaign to update information
  • The motivated and informed volunteer base
  • Best way to get out the vote  

Email requires building trust to be effective 

Email is the most important tool of a digital GOTV program. A person must be able to trust that the emails they receive are authentic and not spam. However, in order to build this level of trust with voters, "you have to earn it." 

The previous campaign made extensive use of data to build personalized emails for each potential voter. These emails included calls to action and requests for political field organizers. Still, they also added little personal touches like images of the volunteer or their family or events they attended together. These were used as a starting point for conversations rather than simply sending a campaign message. 

Search and Facebook ads must not just about voting

Political search ads are an effective way to gain support for your candidate, but they need to be select in order to have the most impact. Use data from email marketing programs or digital voter files; campaigns can specify which voters see their ads based on their contact and other personal characteristics. Facebook's "Custom Audiences" tool is also similar to search and allows for targeted ads and posts. The key to both of these tools is targeting, so that one may not be effective or efficient without the other.

SMS programs are about experimentation

One of the interesting uses of digital GOTV is SMS programs. It is an extremely cheap method for contacting supporters and can be very efficient, but it requires programmers to set up the system. While the initial cost may be high as there are many areas to cover. You can generate a good program that runs future outreach that is relatively simple. 

The key to SMS programs is experimenting with different ways to get out the vote. For example, does a reminder on election day make supporters more likely to vote? Is it better for them to receive a picture of their polling place or directions to their polling location? Which type of message should be sent in order for supporters to show up at the polls? Campaigns need to answer these and other questions and tailor their outreach accordingly.

Peer-to-peer (P2P) tools are about social pressure

Digital GOTV tools should maximize outreach and make sure information is spread as far and wide as possible. One of the political campaign strategies to do this is through peer-to-peer programs, which focus on social pressure to get supporters involved in GOTV efforts. 

Peer-to-peer programs use digital technology to get the message out to everyone that a voter has been approach. This can be either through phone calls, text messages, email, or social media. However, the most effective peer-to-peer tools are those that include incentives for voters to get intricate in GOTV efforts. 

The best programs use something that is immediate and valued by supporters. For example, a cash donation to charity will encourage supporters to vote.

How does a campaign use digital GOTV to increase voter turnout? 

Campaigns need systems in place to make sure their digital GOTVs are as efficient as any other campaign activity. Running a digital GOTV program starts with creating a list of volunteers and supporters. These should be people who have been notify in the past, share similar profiles or characteristics, or have volunteered for a campaign in the past. Campaign management needs to find a way to keep this list up-to-date, so when they ask these supporters for help, they can be as targeted and effective as possible.

How can your campaign use mobile tools? 

Campaigns need to be as creative as possible in order to get the most out of their digital GOTV efforts, but they will also need a deep understanding of each tool and its unique capabilities. For example, some polling place information needs to be retrieve by volunteers on the ground, while others only need the names of supporters who have already been get on to. There are dozens of potential applications for digital GOTV tools and campaigns that must be creative about which ones they use, why they are using them, and what each tool will do for their voter turnout efforts.

Final Thoughts:

While digital GOTV has become a well-known and used tool in political campaigns, it is still in its early stages. Many political consulting firms are using these programs without knowing if they work, which means there is wasted effort and money. Campaigns can be more efficient and effective by making sure their program meets the campaign's needs to find new supporters and get out the vote. If campaigns and organizations can figure out what type of message is best secure by supporters and how to contact them, they will be able to maximize their outreach and increase turnout through digital GOTV.

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