As the 2012 political campaign approaches, we are struck by a commonality between the political landscape and the email marketing world over recent years: the rapid growth of cross-channel marketing as a necessity for success.
Back in 2008, Barack Obama's use of social media as a campaign outlet garnered much attention from the press, and his political advantage was often attributed in part to his leveraging of multiple channels to create buzz and broadcast messages. The Huffington Post's Arianna Huntington went so far as to say, "Were it not for the Internet, Barack Obama would not be president. Were it not for the Internet, Barack Obama would not have been the nominee" (as quoted by the New York Times in 2008).
While it's widely recognized that the youth vote was instrumental in Obama's road to the presidency, and while it's also certainly true that the youth of 2008 were the most Web-savvy demographic, we in email marketing have seen a shift in the social media landscape. It's not just for kids anymore; it's for everyone.
As we approach the 2012 presidential campaigns, potential candidates are showing that they've noticed this, too. Not only did President Obama announce his 2012 campaign via email and video, but the Republican presidential hopefuls are already well connected with the social media world and using it to get their messages out. A recent New York Times article highlights how Republican candidates are ready to dispel the myth that Internet smarts are the domain of liberal politicians.
Potential 2012 Republican candidate Mitt Romney announced his presidential-exploratory committee via an online video, also linked from Twitter. According to a May 5 article from the Daily Iowan, Mike Huckabee currently has more than 143,000 followers on Twitter, while Sarah Palin has more than 486,000 followers, and more than 2,895,000 people have "liked" her Facebook page. Michele Bachmann has nearly 43,000 followers on Twitter and has tweeted 20 times this week. A quick survey of some 2012 Republican hopefuls' websites yielded a fun preview of the role that social media will play in their upcoming campaigns:
· Mitt Romney's website features a YouTube video and a line of social networking icons along the bottom, with a call to "Connect with Mitt."
· When I went to visit Mike Huckabee's website, I received a popup asking me to enter my email address to "Receive emails from Mike." After doing so (what email marketer wouldn't?) I was greeted on his home page with a prominent call to "Join the Huckabee Network."
· In addition to her call to "Get Connected," Sarah Palin's website features a Facebook feed right on the homepage.
U.S. presidential campaigns are no stranger to radical transformation as a result of new technology. With campaigns forever altered by the introduction of radio and then by television broadcasts, it's no shock that Web-savvy constituents respond so strongly to cross-channel political marketing. It's a way for candidates to generate buzz and spread messages quickly, and it's a way to boost a feeling of connectedness between candidate and constituency.
Since the advent of email marketing, marketers have been both influenced and been influenced by the development of new online strategy and technologies, with innovations consistently raising the bar and changing the demands of our subscribers. Keeping an eye on how those in the political sphere leverage multiple channels reminds us that we aren't operating in a vacuum with our click-throughs, buttons and SWYN links. Not only do social media channels now play a huge role in retail and B2B email marketing, but they are instrumental in getting any messages out there -- and by being smart, we can continue to play a role in shaping public attitudes toward cross-channel marketing.