Rand Paul shocked no one with his eleven and a half hour long filibuster against the NSA and domestic spying programs. He has been a fervent opponent to the program since first questioned about it. What should cause some folks to pay attention however is the impact that this effort caused on his social media presence, particularly the effectiveness of the #StandWithRand that his digital team has adopted as it’s tagline.
Paul is not your traditional Republican candidate and the Rand for President digital team, lead by Austin based Vincent Harris, is just another example of those differences. Harris has been know to use asymmetrical tactics when it comes to promoting his candidates digital footprints and so far they have been pulling out all the stops for Paul. Whether it is sponsoring tweets and google search ads to come up as new candidates declare and get into the race, or looking to develop new apps to accompany what is sure to be a full spectrum effort, the Rand digital team is playing for keeps. What is interesting is seeing the conversion from a digital marketplace into the political zeitgeist that has been occurring with some of the more recent steps that the Paul campaign has been making. While the entry of a few more mainstream candidates has shrunk the lead that Paul enjoyed with the early start, his digital footprint is the only one that seems to be growing in any real way. The other notable thing about that growth is how organic it seems to be, which means they are getting some great targeting for their persuasion messaging or something is starting to coalesce.
Candidates and campaigns need to be paying attention, not only is internet the Wild West as far as advertising, fundraising, and brand management, but with Millienials taking up larger marketshare both in employment and in the voting booths, getting to them requires venturing out into the digital space. While it is still extremely early, and unlike traditional media we aren’t going to run out of ad time to buy, Rand’s early lead on digital is a bushwhacker blazing a new trail that has the potential to getting the most out of the jungle that the GOP primary is about to become. In order to cut down Paul’s digital lead, campaigns are going to need to get aggressive about their digital efforts, particularly with regard to online ad targeting and email list prospecting.
Like every Presidential cycle before, this one promises to break the mold on how to identify voters, get your message out, and build that winning coalition. If 2012 was the year of the recurring small dollar email donor, 2016 is building up to be the year of the #hashtag.