Every campaign cycle, you’ll see political candidates register new domains, create new websites, and spin up new social media accounts. It’s a gigantic waste of time and money, yet it’s considered best practice by many political consultants. Imagine if the New England Patriots built a new stadium for each football season or Walmart built a new store for each Christmas shopping season. Sounds ridiculous, right? You already spent a bunch of money into building, maintaining, and improving those properties. Plus, people know where they are and are familiar with them. Why do something twice?
How Did We Get Here?
There are a couple of reasons people do this.
The first reason is that they don’t value having any of these tools active outside of an active election campaign. “If I’m not running for office, why would anyone want to hear from me?” If you are stuck in an outbound strategy mentality, this makes sense. Most campaigns only have two things to say to people; Give me money and vote for me. These messages don’t land outside of election season.
The second reason is particular to social media accounts and amounts to creating a “clean slate.” This is a little more understandable, though I do still disagree with it for reasons I’ll outline below. The thinking here is that any personal social media accounts are a liability and/or distraction. Opponents will go digging through old Tweets and posts and take something out of context to exploit. Better to just shut down the old account and create a new one that speaks exclusively about the campaign and can be sanitized by the consultants.
And so every two years work is done, tossed away, then redone. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.
Starting Over Is Costly
The result of this approach is that every two years, a candidate needs to spend time and money to rebuild all of these properties. They have to register new domains, build new websites, and secure new social media accounts. These need to be designed, commissioned, and seeded with content. All of this takes time and/or money. In many cases, you’ll be paying the people who advised you to blow everything up and start over.
There’s another major downside besides cost. It takes a lot of time and effort to build a large digital footprint. In the case of a website, this is measured in search engine optimization (SEO), which is how visible your website is to Google’s search engine. In the case of social media, this is your follower audience. These are not easy things to grow. They require care and feeding. Nuking them and starting over every two years is a colossal waste of resources and in most cases, never gives them a chance to take off.
One more thing… Besides being wasteful, I would argue they’re also inauthentic. If you’re changing your online identity every two years, people will assume you’re a phony (or at least your online persona is). Social media is all about being authentic and remarkable. Constantly rebranding yourself does not instill a lot of confidence in your message.
Play the Long Game Instead
My last blog post pointed out the importance of building assets. It’s hard to do that when you’re pressing the reset button every two years. Most candidates and activists spend all of their online capital talking about themselves and focused on extracting money and support from constituents. It’s hard to be successful that way.
A better approach is to shift your entire mindset from taking to giving. Build an online presence that aims to educate, entertain, and inspire. This is an approach that works all year long and before, during, and after election season. It allows you to be your authentic self 365 days a year while building a loyal audience.
In marketing, I have an 80/20 rule for my clients. At least 90% of your content should be selfless and valuable. You can use the other 10% to throw out the occasional request or appeal for donations, votes, etc. But first, you need to build reciprocity. Otherwise, it’s like going on a first date and talking about what to name your first child.