On online presence is critical to state election success. Online strategies have become more sophisticated over the years, and candidates can be outclassed by opponents who simply run a better online campaign. Knowing the opportunities and taking advantage of them will improve your chance of success.

Here’s a quick overview of the basic elements of an online political campaign:

Online Reputation

Your online reputation is what people are saying about you and, perhaps more importantly, it’s the information voters first encounter when they perform online searches about you or your state senate or representative campaign.

You want influence over what people see, hear and read about you on the web. To do that, you need an online identity. That means getting yourself – your history and goals – out on the web. This is done by creating identities on social networks, creating a campaign website, issuing online press releases, and generating positive buzz.

The ultimate goal of building an online identity is search result page domination. This means that when someone searches your name, they will find the positive information that you want people to see in the top search results. By dominating these search results, you can also push down and make unfavorable material about your harder to find.

Your Campaign Website

By starting a campaign website early, you can raise campaign seed money that much faster. A website set up for donations makes it easier for donors to contribute. Someone is more likely to quickly click and donate than to write out a check, put it in an envelope, and mail it out.

Having a central location to promote the different elements of your campaign comes in handy. Cross-promotion strengthens your overall web presence.

Social Media

Signing up for Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and every social network you can find is a recipe for disaster. Building a consistent presence on multiple social sites is hard work, so it’s best to start by only tackling a couple at first – and sticking with them.

Building an online network before you launch your political campaign gives you a leg up when you announce your intention to run. The payoff is that your group of friends and fans will be the first to check out your campaign website, provide feedback on it, help promote it, and perhaps even help in your fundraising and volunteer efforts.

Email

Despite the popularity of social media, email is still the ‘killer app’ of online campaigning. A multifaceted online push is the most effective way to build support.

By starting early, you can accumulate more e-mail addresses from supporters. Using email to keep in regular contact helps get your word out and keeps supporters informed.

Online Advertising

Your campaign website, social media and email campaigns are all promotional methods, but paid social media exposure (like Facebook ads), pay-per-click, banner advertising on popular local sites, text messaging, and retargeting can all help get the word out and engage others. Be sure to budget for online advertising expenses.

Of course, all of these online elements tie into your online fundraising, support building, and your get out the vote (GOTV) efforts.

Political campaigning is a multifaceted effort, and it’s recommended that even small campaigns take the time and resources to promote themselves online. Your election success can hang in the balance!

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