It’s nothing new to see politicians using every trick in the book to help them win an election and you can go back decades and find examples of clever marketers and spin doctors using the best techniques of the day to give their man, (or woman), and advantage.
But what happens when that familiar old book of tricks gets rewritten?
Rather than adding a small chapter, the digital revolution has opened up a chasm of opportunity to governments, politicians and election candidates. Those who stand still could quickly find themselves with less votes than John Prescott at a beauty contest.
As with all businesses, it’s understanding how digital tools and social media techniques can help which is causing the biggest headache for political campaigners and that’s exactly why they’re starting to turn to companies like Roar in an effort to stay one step ahead of the voting game.
How Can Digital Drive Election Success?
In truth, a positively run election campaign is nothing new in the digital world. Getting your message out to your followers via Facebook pages, Twitter updates, geo-taegeting etc. is something which we’re able to organise and execute very easily here at Roar.
But what is becoming a fascinating, is the machiavellian aspect of digitally run political campaigns, the ability for candidates to sabotage and derail their opponents’ election success.
Here’s how (hypothetically) a negative digital marketing campaign could be employed to boost a candidate’s own chances of victory whilst at the same time impairing the hopes of their rivals.
(fyi – don’t like politics? Then consider these same examples can be applied to pesky competitors, companies you’re looking to acquire to lower the share price or use you’re imagination!)
1. Demographically Targeted Attacks
It is now possible for politicians to produce material which attacks their opponents without the often distasteful nature of the attacks being visible to their own supporters.
As more and more voters become disgruntled with their favoured parties or candidates ‘going negative’, this tactic allows campaigners to make attacks without their own supports even being aware they’re doing it.
For example facebook, google and bing can all be geo targetted to focus on an area that the target never gets to see and the damage is done stealthly and covertly.
Whilst this method may not gain more votes for a politician’s own cause, it can certainly be highly effective in reducing turn-out for the opposition candidates come election day.
2. Retargeted Attacks on Opposition Trusted Sites
Do you know what digital retargeting is?
You’ll probably find you do, but just didn’t know the name for it.
Retargeting is when a website provides your computer with a cookie when you first visit it. That cookie may contain information about the products or services you were looking at on their site.
When you navigate away from the site, the advertising space on other sites will be filled with ads pushing the company and products you have been looking at previously.
For example, you may search for a hotel in Paris on a leading holiday website. When you navigate away, you’ll soon start seeing ads for hotels in Paris popping up everywhere.
(you’ll see our remarketing ads too now you’ve been to our website :-))
So, how can this assist in smearing a political opponents’ campaign?
Well, the first step is to setup a website which will be visited by supporters of your opponents. Then ensure a cookie is placed on their computer which allows you to retarget your own ads to them as they make their way around other areas of the web.
Your ads can be designed to portray opponents in a negative way. Often they can appear as editorially based news stories and if displayed in the right places may even give opposition supporters the impression that their own party’s media supporters are campaigning against themselves!
Of course the entire time, there is no need for any of your own followers to come across any of this material.
3. Get Wicked on Wiki
All journalists know that Wikipedia is a resource never to be entirely trusted and using it to research stories should never be considered.
Of course, a large proportion of them do it anyway, and that’s where you can employ more dastardly digital delicacies to further hamper your opponents’ progress.
Posting a negative story about your rival on Wikipedia is not difficult. If that story hangs around long enough for a journalist to pick it up and report it, you are then in the position where the Wiki story is further strengthened in its validity by the news story and your ‘rumour’ can spread like wildfire.
4. Rank Behaviour
It used to be the case that people trusted everything they read in the newspaper. It probably still is, but people now trust everything highly ranked in a Google search too.
The difference is that whilst you’ll be hard pushed to convince any newspaper editor to print lies about your opponent just to help you out, Google is a lot easier to manipulate.
Using tried and trusted SEO techniques, you can set up a fake site, with damaging information about your rival and have it returned up amongst the top Google search results for your opponent’s name.
If you produce a website which claims your opponent is in fact an insect eating alien and you can get it to the top of the Google ratings for searches on his/her name, you’d be amazed at the number of people who will readily believe every word.
5. Give a Bad Impression
It’s not particularly pleasant and you certainly won’t want to be caught out as the originator of this type of thing, but if you can successfully impersonate your opponents in the digital world, and create viral stories which can be directly attributed to that impersonation, you’ll be onto a real winner.
Signing up for a fake Twitter account in your opponent’s name and writing something which will quickly cause a stir and have Twitterers retweating like nobody’s business is exactly the effect you’re looking for.
By the time your opponent’s team have put together a considered response, denying the comments were ever made by them, you can be sure that the rebuff will never be as viral as the initial comment and will not be seen by as many people.
Of course, as we said earlier, using dirty digital tricks is probably not what we want our politicians to be spending all their time on, even if it is good fun and highly effective.
Politicians and those running their election campaigns should also be taking professional advice from highly experienced digital marketing agencies, and that’s exactly where Roar are about to step in.
Talking hypothetically for a moment, if you are a local politician running a campaign based around your commitment to creating a greener environment, we will help to ensure that not only do you figure high in search results for your name and your party but we’ll also link you directly to the issues your pushing.
If for example a local resident in your area searches Google for, ‘Environmental Waste in Brighton’, we can help ensure that the first result they are presented with is one which outlines your policy and perhaps offers some guidance and how they can go about taking environmentally positive action immediately. Your name will quickly become synonymous with issues around your key policies.
Whilst attacking your opponents and derailing their campaigns always has, and no doubt always will have a key part to play in elections, it must also be noted that carefully planned and expertly executed positive digital campaigns can ultimately be the real winner.