Campaigning online has shifted the political fund-raising paradigm significantly, and forever altered the strategies candidates employ to feed their machines. When we read news stories about this phenomenon, however, we rarely learn exactly what online channel is driving the donations—search, email, social networks, etc. The headlines usually credit “the internet.”
Peter Greenberger who runs the Elections & Issue Advocacy group at Google was kind enough to make some time for me recently, and indicated that each of the campaigns is dedicating over 50% of their online marketing budgets to search—with some dedicating well over 50%. What I find most interesting, however, is that the candidates are primarily leveraging paid search to build their email lists.
Barack Obama is, hands down, the most successful online fundraiser. He often raises over a million dollars a day online, and has certainly forced the other candidates to get more sophisticated about how they approach the web. His online strategies definitely seem to be working. So how exactly is he soliciting donations?
Type “obama” into Google and click on the top link, a paid search listing. Where do to you land? The link takes a clicker to a page that features a simple opt-in box asking for name, email, and address, with an adjacent video window featuring a message from the candidate. There is no “donate now” button, or form with various contribution levels, just a simple opt-in box to register to receive updates from the campaign. Mr. Obama realizes that your email address is the most valuable donation you can make, and that with it he can more effectively induce you into making larger, more frequent donations, or solicit your assistance in making phone calls and otherwise promote the campaign. Obama may be spending the majority of his money on search, but it seems from this example, that he may very well be raising most of his money through email.
—Nicholas Einstein of Datran Media