Social media is key to political communication and the practice of social listening makes it effective, elaborates Giovanni Hashimoto, Co-founder at A+G Digital
in this interview with Media 7. He also shares effective ways to create and optimize digital presences. Read on to find out what to expect from the digital landscape in the new year.
Campaigns that use Twitter mentions as their primary barometer of online sentiment will have an extremely skewed conception of what the electorate is thinking.
MEDIA 7: As an experienced political strategist with expertise in message development and digital campaigns, how has social media influenced political communication?
GIOVANNI HASHIMOTO: Social media is key to political communications but too often digital marketers in politics get it wrong. They allow social media to be a tool exclusively for earned media or to augment press relations. That’s important but as I wrote for Campaigns and Elections, social media is also a key tool for reaching voters if used effectively. We saw social media used effectively by campaigns like Sen. Ed Markey’s 2020 reelection campaign in Massachusetts. His team built a highly-skilled team of digital strategists that helped create the "Merkeyverse" — an online fanbase that augmented the campaign’s messaging to real voters in a big way. Social media continues to evolve but its importance to campaigns has only grown since President Obama’s 2008 effort.
M7: What are the different ways you practice social listening to create effective digital campaigns for your clients?
GH: Social listening is critical to staying in tune with your consumers and constituents. Campaigns generally are less sophisticated in how they utilize social listening (at least at the Congressional and state levels where A+G works) but it’s still crucial to understanding what content is resonating. We often have to remind campaigns that, "Twitter is not real life," and social listening hammers this point home. Campaigns that use Twitter mentions as their primary barometer of online sentiment will have an extremely skewed conception of what the electorate is thinking. That’s why every campaign and organization needs to implement more holistic social listening that lets them capture what constituents are saying across networks.
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A creative human touch to creating compelling, eye-catching content is what makes our audience pause their scroll and engage with content.
M7: How does A+G help their clients optimize and create compelling digital presences that drive engagement and growth?
GH: I’ve always believed in taking an experimental but data-driven approach to crafting compelling — or what we like to call "scroll-stopping" — digital experiences. That means that we try new things to test them and closely track metrics. It means frequent A/B testing and more qualitative reviews of what types of content are performing best - measured across dimensions. A creative human touch to creating compelling, eye-catching content is what makes our audience pause their scroll and engage with content.
M7: The COVID-19 pandemic compelled all sectors in the market to adapt to a new digital reality. How did campaigns innovate and adapt to keep up with this change?
GH: A big part of digital for campaigns is online fundraising. Early in the pandemic, I wrote about how campaigns could keep fundraising as long as they didn’t do it in a crass way. In the end, when campaigns give supporters the chance to donate — it’s an opportunity to show support and one that’s meaningful for many constituents. Fundraising was of course just one way that campaigns were impacted by COVID-19. It precipitated an almost total digital transformation — one that’s applicable to the private sector as well. Taking previously in-person activities like events, video production, and more digital allows strategists to be more nimble and efficient in using resources. That’s not going to change even when we get beyond this pandemic.
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In the end, when campaigns give supporters the chance to donate — it’s an opportunity to show support and one that’s meaningful for many constituents.
M7: At A+G, what is your approach to maximizing website conversion rates for your clients?
GH: Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) is a critical way to ensure that your website is pushing visitors to the highest-value action you can lead them to. This goes beyond the obvious like including well-placed acquisition forms and buttons leading to the actions you want. It means relentlessly testing and spending time thinking about and studying the data to maximize our conversion rates for our clients. We consistently find that signup forms placed on specific parts of websites outperform other areas and lead to more signups but that doesn’t mean it’s not subject to testing and iteration. Sometimes just a little bit of CRO-ing can exponentially improve conversion rates!
M7: Stepping into the new year, how is the digital landscape evolving, and what shape is it taking?
GH: There’s a lot of uncertainty with Omicron taking center stage but I’m excited about the future. Even when things go back to normal, the way in which the world has moved, the virtual will remain and enable more flexibility for everyone. Just because we can go fully back to the way things were doesn’t mean that it’s inevitable that we will — in many ways, we learned better and more efficient ways of doing things during the pandemic. I’m excited to apply those lessons while regaining the flexibility of doing things fully in person without the COVID-19 as a concern going forward.
A+G is an agile digital agency that helps Democrats and causes define themselves while developing and targeting the right audience through creative and bold strategy. Their diverse team of experts brings years of digital experience to the table and provides a unique experience by paying close attention to the latest trends. Since its founding in 2018, they’ve scaled to become a full-service digital firm offering a full suite of services, growing both its team and clients. They’ve scaled their practice by being relentlessly engaged, responsive, and creative.