David All doesn’t dwell on paper-and-pen-based communication — in 2007, he founded The David All Group, an online communications and branding firm with offices in Washington, D.C., and San Francisco. The firm’s early political work earned it a reputation as the first conservative Web 2.0 agency. Now The David All Group focuses on marketing, online development services and campaign management to various corporate clients, issue-advocacy campaigns and professional trade associations.
Previously All served as the communications director for Georgia Congressman Jack Kingston, and developed the act.ivi.st website platform that gives supporters tools to become engaged activists for causes. His company has released free tools to help brands (as well as government organizations and the public) understand social media, including The Essential Guide to Twitter and Pinterest 101.
All shared insight via email into how social media and the public’s mobile lifestyle are changing political campaigns, as well as tips for using popular online platforms.
The conventional wisdom during the 2008 presidential race was that Barack Obama’s campaign did a superior job of leveraging social media, and that it was a factor in his win. Have Republicans caught up on this front?
Republicans haven’t caught up so much as they have ridden the latest wave of anti-incumbent energy. It is always easier for the party out of power to harness that energy. We have gone through enough election cycles now to see that social media tools are David’s slingshot and stones to Goliath’s political might, and whatever Goliath is in the White House is the biggest target.
It’s also important to remember that neither party establishment uses social media tools as effectively as they could. The organic base on either side leads the charge, and the parties ride the grass-roots coattails if they can. Look at all the White House and Democratic Party Twitter hashtags hijacked by conservatives to great messaging effect. That’s not the work of the Republican National Committee.
The shift that still needs to occur is for campaigns and organizations to stop only looking at online as a channel for raising money and begin using it as the central platform for communicating a persistent message.
And how does the Romney campaign’s social media presence compare to the president’s?
Both candidates have mastered the two largest social networks: Facebook and Twitter. Their execution is more muddled on niche but equally valuable channels.
While President Obama’s campaign has an excellent Pinterest strategy, Mitt Romney has let his wife Ann be his sole voice on Pinterest in a transparent play for female voters. By contrast, Mitt Romney’s LinkedIn profile is strong, with each resume point including campaign language, but Obama’s profile looks short and unimpressive.
Both candidates are on Google+, but neither has truly tapped into that channel. And neither candidate has done an “Ask Me Anything” on Reddit, which is a missed opportunity.
Is there a social media or networking platform beyond the usual suspects — Twitter, Facebook and so on — that politicos are using effectively that we may not have heard of?
These days everyone is gravitating toward Pinterest, and with good reason. The storytelling capabilities of that medium are phenomenal because it emphasizes the visual medium in pictures and videos. But there haven’t been any huge breakout moments yet.
Politicians do need to be cautious on Pinterest because it’s an audience that scorns negativity, but it is a great place for highlighting the lighter side of campaigning.
How is mobility changing the way candidates think about their campaigns?
[Former] Sen. George Allen’s “macaca moment” was a watershed moment six years ago, but few, if any, people had video cameras built into their phones then. The “bitter” sound bite captured at a Barack Obama fundraiser in 2008 confirmed that the game has changed for candidates. Almost every person they meet is empowered with a camera and the ability to share a message, either critical or glowing, in a few minutes to a wide audience.
This has made candidates more pointed and precise in their messages because they cannot afford the “gotcha” stories of today’s “tidbit journalism,” a phrase coined by NBC’s Chuck Todd.
On the flip side, mobile technology creates great opportunities for candidates to humanize their campaigns. They can take pictures and share videos from the road, and they can empower supporters to share special campaign moments of their own. Campaigns have to be smart in how they tell these stories, curating the best of them rather than sharing one and all. But the benefits outweigh the risks for campaigns that employ mobile technology wisely.
Compared to four years ago, more apps are utilizing the geolocation functionality built into smartphones. How are political candidates leveraging geolocation technology for public outreach, campaigning and getting out the vote?
Every time a new app becomes available, campaigns try to figure out how they can use it to advance their candidates. There is far more experimentation using passive location tags on Facebook, Foursquare and Instagram.