For those who haven’t already built tech strategies, all is not lost. “It’s a myth that you need to have been at this for years, and the opposite may be true,” Newsom said. “Technology is moving at such a rapid rate, you won’t be burdened or held back by tired systems.”
But, he points out, the message behind the technology is critical. “It is not just how you deliver the message, but the message itself. You have to have value — not just in what you’re saying, but in how you’re listening.”
Unlike the high permeation of federal campaigns, people often don’t have an opinion in local elections — they may not even know who is running. This creates a tremendous opportunity to run a targeted field campaign. There are no foregone conclusions at the local level; people’s minds are typically undecided.
With all the possibility, it can be easy to lose sight of the potential pitfalls. Votizen’s Binetti cautioned that “technology — either social media or otherwise — is not magic pixie dust. Your donations won’t automatically go up just by adding PayPal to your website, and supporters won’t start using some new click-to-call tool in absence of a reason to do so. So the hard work of creating a message and platform that inspires, and setting up the reward structure to encourage people to act still remains. Technology can make these easier to accomplish and can help scale up organizations, but it won’t make these fundamental requirements of a political campaign disappear.”
What technology has done, however, is allowed candidates at every level to connect via personalized message with vast numbers of voters, creating platforms for two-way conversations and feedback. The future of campaigning will only grow more targeted and personal, merging the physical and the virtual. The ability to process inbound conversations, in ways previously unthinkable, will become critical, said Binetti.
Looking ahead, the most exciting part, Torpey said, is the increase in accessibility. “It is going to allow people to run for office, especially at local levels, who 10 years ago probably couldn’t. I think we’re going to see a tremendous transformation over the next several years of younger and more independent people running for office, which will do great things for public policy debate and innovation in this country.