With such a hyper focus on politics during the 2016 presidential campaign, the team at PoliticalBank, a free campaign website platform that lets candidates and voters interact, knew they had to use it to focus on local elections.
Read how they used paid and organic content growth utilizing creative blog content to grow web traffic 400%.
The world may have gotten swept up in the drama of the 2016 presidential election, but meanwhile, 97% of the people who run for office in the United States are considered local candidates.
“These candidates can range from school board members to township officials to city and town counselors,” said Scott M. Carr, COO, PoliticalBank.
PoliticalBank is a free campaign website that allows a candidate to raise money, weigh in on issues, create issues, recruit volunteers, share information about themselves, and post photos while also connecting with voters who also care about these issues.
Voters also have the opportunity to sign up on the PoliticalBank website to engage with candidates on the issues which matter to them the most.
People can forget about their local elections, as many of the candidates running are operating on a small budget and often don’t have the funds to launch a full-scale website.
“That’s why we created PoliticalBank. In Indiana alone in 2015, only 5% of the candidates running for office actually had a campaign website or an online presence. So we're looking to provide that solution for them,” Carr said.
“Campaign websites or websites in general, to many individuals in the public, are intimidating for the most part,” Carr said.
PoliticalBank allows candidates to have an online campaign website that is just as easy to create as a social media profile.
“If you know how to create a Facebook profile page or a Facebook campaign page, you can create our page. So we seek to remove any sort of intimidation,” he said.
The challenge, Carr said, for him and his marketing team is in communicating “how simple and efficient having an online presence is, and how useful and resourceful it is for you as a candidate and an office holder even at the local level.”
The value in PoliticalBank is that it fills the white space between a political campaign having just a Facebook page or a $1,500 campaign website.
“We eliminate the cost of entry for many candidates … building a $1,500 campaign website is cost prohibitive if I'm running for city town council, and I'm only going to raise $5,000,” he said.
“Every election cycle, we will reach out to anyone who files to run for office. We also then reach out to any current elected officials as another opportunity for them to have an online presence to engage with voters,” Carr said.
The team also reaches out to voters who want to engage over issues with potential and elected officials in a dedicated and safe space.
In his political background with running campaigns, Carr said that technology was used as a tool to help provide voter touch points. A candidate wants to reach a voter with these touches three to five times before Election Day.
“That means I want to send them a mailer. I want to knock on the door. I want to call them,” he said. “Then ultimately, the last thing I want to do is, before they go in for Election Day, I want somebody standing outside the polling site to hand them my little handout that says ‘vote for me.’”
PoliticalBank is providing that same model of outreach and also using it to contact a candidate while they’re deciding what role technology will play in their campaign.
“We want to make sure we're at the top of the discussion and in the front of their thought process as a tool that they can utilize for a winning campaign,” he said.
In their own campaign, the team utilized blog content, social media campaigns and email efforts in order to keep PoliticalBank top of mind.
Step #1. Strategically outline paid social media
PoliticalBank maintains Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn social media profiles to build awareness and drive sign-ups. There is a certain grassroots element to the site — where it grows organically through candidates sharing their own site with their social network or voters sharing a candidate’s profile.
However, the organic growth uses a push from a paid aspect, where PoliticalBank targets those influencers who are seeking office, engaged in politics or otherwise care about political issues.
A cornerstone of the marketing strategy has been to communicate the benefits of PoliticalBank to candidates and attract them to the platform by using methods like targeted ads on Facebook and Twitter. These ads reach out to politically-passionate voters by location, and even ideology by targeting those who have political interests.
The team also utilized a Google Adwords campaign that was aimed at candidates based on relevant keywords they were searching for like: "free campaign website" and "I want to run for office." Over 200 keywords and phrases were tried.
13 versions of text ads were used to link to the candidate sign-up page.
In order to run for office, candidates must meet filing deadlines and declare their candidacy by the specified date. PoliticalBank will actively use paid social ads in states where filing deadlines are still going on to work towards their goal of becoming a candidate’s first source of technology.
The idea of these strategically timed paid ads is that at the time someone is deciding to run for office, PoliticalBank is there as an option for a free website “that you can sign up [for] in 10 minutes. Raise money online. Recruit volunteers. Connect with voters on issues. Post information about your campaign. Create multiple calls to action,” Carr said.
Once you get the candidates who came in through paid ads through the door, they grow your audience for you by simply running their campaign — voters come to the website to investigate, as do other political officials.
“I think ultimately our goal is any candidate who files to run for office in America will get at least one or two contacts to join,” he said.
Step #2. Engage users with compelling content
“We find that a lot of voters don’t necessarily want to engage on Facebook on political issues,” Carr said.
Whether it is engaging with their local city councilor about a street repaving issue or making a donation to a political campaign, voters might not want their circle of friends, family and coworkers to be privy.
“They have the space with us where they can subscribe to their locally elected official. And then suggest issues and seek to have that communication in a safe way. And in the same way, then our candidates have an opportunity to put in their own words exactly where they stand on issues and sort of define themselves on a particular position or policy or issue,” he said.
PoliticalBank offers this group a safe space to interact with the audience that desperately wants to interact with them — elected and running officials.
By offering interesting content through those platforms, both written through the blog and sourced from news outlets, the team is able to reach those interested or involved in politics and make connections between them and influencers in the space. By doing this, the brand becomes an influencer in its own right.
PoliticalBank’s blog is called “The Bank Teller,” and is a substantial part of the marketing strategy, with the content contributing to social media and email.
Its tagline is, “Guides, Tips News and Success Stories from Today’s Political Universe,” and the objective is to create content that fulfills that promise and engages readers.
“We use [The Bank Teller] in numerous ways. We use it to bring to discussion certain issues that we feel is important. We use it to have a little fun. We use it to communicate new features, new tools, new developments that we're constantly working on behalf of our clients and our users,” he said.
In the spirit of a little fun, last April Fool’s Day, a piece of content claimed that famous fictional politician Frank Underwood from Netflix show “House of Cards” had created a PoliticalBank profile.
This content drove record traffic to the site, and the ads created from it had a 4.79% engagement rate.
Content also lends towards the practical, with a “gifographic” blog post that featured a gif of a map detailing the presidential primary dates for each state. As the gif went through different dates, the corresponding states would light up.
The election season is ripe with fantastic political content, and The Bank Teller content is shared to the company’s Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, alongside other trusted news sources, like CBS and Pew Research.
One of the most recent posts put up titled “One Week to Go…” focuses on PoliticalBank’s main audience by detailing five reasons why staying focused on local elections is so important, even in the heat of a presidential race.
“It’s those [local] ballot races which are equally as important and probably affect your life more on a daily basis,” Carr said.
After the first presidential debate, PoliticalBank teamed up with Opinion Savvy to survey local, state and federal candidates and elected officials across the country for a political poll.
It asked these candidates questions like who they would vote for that day, if they were voting for the opposing party candidate, and the biggest issues for them — from a list with items like jobs, security, healthcare, guns, energy and veterans.
The corresponding blog post then broke down the numbers for readers, explaining these insights from the people who would be on their ballots come November. It also ended by prompting readers to sign up for the email list in order to view the full report and receive more content like the survey.
The blog is also utilized as a portal for sponsored content. Part of sustaining the PoliticalBank business model is that a political stakeholder who wants to get their message out to candidates and voters can do so.
It is important that the content is clearly marked, Carr said, and a space where political action committees, for-profit organizations or other stakeholders can share information throughout the network of candidates and voters.
Step #4. Use email as an avenue for content interaction
“Ultimately, we use multiple dynamic approaches in messaging to voters and candidates,” Carr said, adding that email functions as another key part.
Emails are used to promote content, as well as draw attention to hot button issues that are trending nationally.
For example, the election email pictured above shares a pertinent post from the blog, as well as encouraging the subscriber to “spread the word by sharing candidates’ PoliticalBank profiles or issue stances on social media.”
On the other hand, emails sent out to candidates encourage them to weigh in on these trending issues, and share that stance with their followers.
“We believe that in the marketplace there was a need for PoliticalBank, and I think we, in the proof of our business model in the last year, has proven that. We have voters all across the country. We have candidates in all 50 states including the District of Columbia,” Carr said.
As PoliticalBank continues to meet growth benchmarks, he is confident that this is a service that was needed in the space and will continue to provide a valuable service.
Since focusing on becoming a thought leader through content and sharing and then strategically promoting that content, PoliticalBank’s Twitter following has grown 16x what it was when this campaign was started.
The team has also seen a 400% increase in web traffic and 480,000 unique impressions from social ads.
Torchlite – PoliticalBank’s digital marketing vendor
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