There’s no doubt that social revolutionized the 2008 election season and transformed how we perceive the power of social. With election marketing now in full swing, mobile is poised to transform local and national elections in 2012.

Why? Two important things have shifted the campaign and technology landscape.
First, the sluggish economy, a growing debt crisis, slow job growth, and other issues have created a much more heated, engaged political climate where more Americans want to speak their mind and participate in the political process. Second, the digital world has evolved dramatically. There has also been a widespread acceptance of smart phones combined with an expected increase of mobile phone penetration of 85 percent of the U.S. population in 2008, according to The Pew Research Center, to over 100 percent in 2012, according to Informa (in other words, more than one phone per person). Voters are using their phones for more than just a phone call.
These conditions create the opportunity for mobile engagement to revolutionize campaign organization and database building, and it’s easy to see how effective mobile marketing can be. In 2008 Rock the Vote, an organization dedicated to registering young voters, used its mobile database drive an additional 3-4 percent turn-out on Election Day in 2008. Since then they’ve unleashed hundreds of mobile campaigns with creative promotions to further get the word out on issues and help young people participate in the political process. For example, earlier this year Rock the Vote encouraged supporters to text pictures holding a signed flier that said, “I demand health care,” and send them to RockTheVote.com. The result? Over 21,000 mobile connections were made with health care reform supporters and pictures were displayed on the website, sent through to social media channels, and shared with friends.
All political organizations should be tapping into an arsenal of proven mobile approaches starting now leading up to November 2012. Here are five ways candidates can win with mobile:
First, dial into young voters. Young people represent a large pool of potential voters and are the most active mobile users, according to a recent Pew study. They are almost exclusively using their mobile devices for communicating with their friends, especially for non-work activities like politics. As a result, incorporating mobile initiatives into concerts, gatherings and campus rallies will allow candidates to directly connect with fans and take that special connection with them wherever they are.
Next, look to turn inspiration into action at rallies. By creating a sustained connection with your audience through mobile at political rallies and events, candidates are able to form a deep and more personal relationship with voters, wherever they are. By connecting with them at the “point of inspiration,” they’re able to capture the energy and excitement of the rally and capitalize on incredible database-building efforts (far better than the paper sign-up sheet at the table). Regardless if the rally is for 100, 1,000, or 10,000 people, every political meeting or event should have a mobile call to action such as enabling them to send messages, pictures, or questions to a big screen or sign online petitions.
Next, use mobile to get smarter. Mobile engages people by giving them a voice and gives candidates new insights. By asking an audience at a rally to participate in polls and trivia, key insights can be uncovered that help shape the campaign along the way. What issues do they care about the most? What do they wish the candidate would address more specifically? These are the kinds of questions that a candidate can either address immediately and/or the campaign team can later develop more effective messaging for a particular demographic or geography.
Plus, candidates need to make sure they get permission to build trust: Mobile has a higher bar to cross for any marketer since you’re asking people to use their most intimate communication device, their cell phone. However, when you cross that bar, you have earned a deeper connection that turns your database into gold. By always gaining proper permissions, you guarantee a higher percentage of qualified supporters who will not mistake your text for spam.
Lastly, candidates need to keep the conversation going: Once a voter has participated in a mobile campaign and they have given you permission to communicate with them, that’s when the magic really happens. By building a mobile list of passionate voters, you can then promote upcoming events, election news, exclusive content, and encourage them to go vote on Election Day. Use email for a regular drum roll of messaging and monitor your open rates. Use SMS to hit your audience when timing really matters most, and watch your open rates and response to action soar.
So, will Obama innovate with mobile like he did with social? Or will a Republican contender take the mobile-innovation torch? I predict that the candidate who masters mobile will be in the White House in January 2013.
Dorrian Porter is CEO of Mozes, a mobile events platform. Follow him on Twitter @dgp.
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