Tales from the campaign: part nine – digital marketing

[Note: The observations, impressions and interpretations found here are my own and do not necessarily reflect those of Jeff Johnson, who’s campaign this series is about. This series is about the marketing behind Jeff’s campaign. This is part x in a series. Parts one, two and three can be found here (part one), here (part two), here (part three), here (part four), here (part five), here (part six), here (part seven) and here (part eight).]

When you win or lose an election by less than 140 votes, it’s easy to conclude that everything you did – or didn’t do – mattered.

We spent around $600 and a lot of time on our digital efforts, and I believe they paid off well beyond the 14o vote spread.

The Jeff Johnson for Council website was an obvious and mandatory tool for our campaign. It gave us a permanent digital footprint within which we could control our message and divide up into easily categorized pages the things people wanted to know about Jeff – why he was running, who he was, what he had done, what he wanted to do and who was supporting him.

We made several changes to this page as the campaign went on. Using Google Analytics, we actually learned a few things about the site that influenced the content. The most surprising thing we learned was that the “Citizen Endorsement” page was receiving more pageviews than any other pages. This told us early on that we’d better stock up on endorsements and get people’s names up as quickly as possible.

(Thankfully, our site developer built an admin tool to quickly type in names and get them into production (on the site) immediately. Also, since election day, the site continues to get traffic, but now everyone seems to be viewing the “About Jeff” page the most.)

The election ballots started showing up in resident’s mailboxes around October 19th and 20th. (Washington State has mail-in ballot elections, but that’s the subject of a different post.) We kept a close eye on our web traffic from that date on to see what we could learn about voter behavior.

Going into the campaign, we theorized that most people would mail in their ballots by the Saturday prior to the Tuesday election. But our site traffic thankfully told us that it was on that Saturday that people really started paying attention. Our site traffic blew up starting that weekend, and because of that, we doorbelled and handed out flyers heavily from Saturday on through election day.

Our site had a link to Jeff’s Facebook page, and we saw a lot of traffic coming from one to the other. Personally, I believe that while outside influences like Gov Watch played a big role in the election, Jeff’s Facebook page was the single most important tool in our campaign.

For the last three-to-four weeks of the elections, Jeff was posting daily on the page. We developed a good mix of linking to useful articles or sites relevant to Lake Forest Park and the election, making observations of a personal nature that gave people a window into Jeff’s personality or quickly reacting to the actions of our opponent and the other incumbants.

It was the last two, in particular, that I thought had the biggest effect on Jeff’s election. Our posts really resonated with the readers, and I’m confident the things he was writing were getting shared via word-of-mouth with other LFP voters.

By the last three weeks of the campaign, each of our posts was being seen 500 to 650 times – most by LFP voters. By the last week of the campaign, we would settle in at 87 likes – 6 higher than Dwight Thompson, the mayoral candidate who lost, and the only other candidate of the 8 who had a Facebook presence.

For Pay-Per-Click (PPC) purposes, we relied on two tools – Google AdWords and Facebook Ads.

Based on what we learned about when voters really became engaged, we probably would not have put quite so much money into the campaigns as early as we did. But then again, those ads were kick-starting the name awareness portion of the campaign more than a week prior to the voter ballots arriving in the mail.

Our AdWords strategy was really fun, because it was clear to me we were the only candidate using it. So it was fun to hear from people that whenever they searched for “Chuck Paulsen,” our opponent, on Google or even when they searched for any of the candidates, the first listing they saw was “Jeff Johnson for LFP Council.” We received quite a few clicks from people who were searching for our opponent.

We also used a keyword strategy of all things Lake Forest Park that were probably of interest to taxpaying voters. For example, people with children in the public schools were probably more likely to be engaged, so we used the names of all the local schools in our keyword strategy.

Lake Forest Park, and the Seattle area, in general, is a fairly liberal area. We knew that liberals would probably assume that Jeff was a liberal candidate. In contrast, conservatives were more likely to look for clues that the candidate is friendly to their causes. (It was no surprise to me that everyone I spoke to while doorbelling who asked me if Jeff was liberal or conservative was, in fact, a conservative… without exception.)

So to reach out to conservatives, I also used a geographic keyword strategy of tying Jeff’s AdWords campaign to the names of every GOP presidential candidate so that when someone in the Seattle area searched for “Ron Paul,” for example, they also received Jeff’s LFP campaign ad. I realized there’d be some waste here, but I thought that would be mitigated by the fact that they probably wouldn’t click on it if they weren’t located in LFP.

Our ads were also appearing in relevant articles appearing in the Lake Forest Park Patch, one of our only online news sites. But our most targeted ads were probably on Facebook.

Using Facebook ads, we were able to direct our ads only at the 1,460 Lake Forest Park residents on Facebook (not including those on Facebook who live here, but hadn’t filled in their location in their personal profile).

Our Facebook ads were seen more than 300 times per resident, but more importantly, 367 LFP residents saw them accompanied by the message that Jeff’s Facebook site was “liked” by someone they knew and included the name(s). As we learned from our citizen endorsement page traffic on the main site, this name association was valuable to people when they were seeing our ads.

All-in-all, we paid $1.40 per click on our Facebook campaign and $1.60 per click on our AdWords campaign. Since we weren’t measuring a traditional product, we knew we’d never be able to measure how that translated to conversions – “conversion” being a vote, in our case. But since we won, we’re happy with the final result.

Aside from the PPC campaigns, we also had a content strategy that involved the local online media, but I will address that in the next installment.

We also used LinkedIn, but we found that in the context of this election, it was more valuable on the front end as a way to raise money and gather endorsements for Jeff’s website. I think it will probably play a greater role in the success of Jeff’s auto repair business going forward.

In part ten, I’ll look at the campaign marketing judo, or how we turned our opponents’ efforts against them.

– My name is Jon Friesch, and this was the best work I did all year.

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5 Responses to Tales from the campaign: part nine – digital marketing

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