How to Connect With Audiences Sheltering In Place

Originally Published on Campaigns and Elections

By Cheryl Hori

As the days of shelter-in-place continue, new lifestyle trends have started to emerge: 

The shift in how Americans are consuming media and spending their time — has anyone else baked 15 loaves of bread this week? — means a changing landscape for how campaigns and organizations reach and talk to their supporters. Right now, campaigns have a captive audience and it would be a missed opportunity to let this window close. 

Here are a few ways that campaigns can take advantage of this time: 

Give the people what they want.

In lieu of after-work happy hours, kid’s soccer games, and visits from family members, people are looking for community and connections they’d normally find in-person. Leverage digital — Facebook or Google Groups are a great place to start — to give your supporters and audiences a place to come together over a common goal or mission. 

Learn more about your audiences. 

Specifically where they’re spending their time online: While campaigns are usually running a mile a minute with no time to stop and do a deep dive of where their specific supporters are spending their time, campaigns and organizations are now in a unique position to start learning more about their audiences. 

Why is this important? The more you know about where your audience is spending their time online, the better prepared you are to meet them where they are. Are your supporters more responsive to SMS pushes, or are they looking to more escapist user-generated content to take their minds off the awful news cycle? 

Get back to the basics with your organic content.

Over the past year, we’ve seen Twitter shut down their political advertising, Google pile on restriction after restriction (and then reverse some of them ), and Spotify hit pause on all their paid political content. 

So with more time, more eyes, and less access to paid efforts, this might be the perfect time to return to our digital roots and generate organic content for some of the platforms you might not normally think of. For instance, if you’re a candidate with young children, a Pinterest post about “five things you can do with your kids during the quarantine” can include two-ingredient playdough, balloon hockey — and explaining what the U.S. Census is and why it’s important. 

Look to both new and old platforms.

Last year we talked about how Reddit could be the political ad platform to watch, and with everyone literally watching everything, now might be the time to dip your toe into the Reddit Public Access Network  — Reddit’s version of a rotating livestream. 

Reddit users can livestream everything from walking their dog to playing guitar or potentially giving a virtual town hall on updates from Capitol Hill. The one thing to remember here is that literally any Reddit user can watch your feed and comment so prepare for the trolls. 

And while we’re on the topic of streaming, popular video streaming services Twitch and Mixer are potential goldmines for influencer marketing. With thousands of eyes watching, our team recently worked with a Twitch influencer to talk advocacy issues and raise serious dollars for a non-profit via a 24-hour video game streaming fundraiser. This is also a great way to engage those infamously tricky-to-message-to young men age 18-34. 

But while Twitch has a lot of potential with influencer engagement, it’s also important to remain realistic if you’re going the route of creating organic content. Known as one of the most tech-savvy candidates, Andrew Yang’s 2020 campaign had less than 2,000 followers on Twitch  and his video clips peaked at a measly 86 views. 

Finally, in a return to the classics: SMS is seeing a huge bump right now in terms of ROI for both engagement and fundraising. According to Yoni Landau of Resistance Labs, a peer-to-peer SMS agency, responsiveness is up about two times and in some cases, fundraising numbers are quadrupling.

So if you’ve been waiting for that perfect moment to leverage that list of cellphone numbers: the time is now.

Living in a post-COVID world.

They say it takes 21 days to form a new habit and months to break one. So even after the lockdowns are lifted, it’s likely that a number of the habits we’re forming today will last far beyond this time and will continue to shape how campaigns and organizations engage with voters and supporters. 

Cheryl Hori is the founder of Pacific Campaign House, a progressive digital campaign firm.