Campaigns have realized that texting is a much more effective communication method than email. And they’ve likely got your number.
At least one of the 2020 presidential candidates doesn’t have any apps on his phone, another admits to using Microsoft Word and our current president has been known to tweet more than 100 times in a single day.
But no matter the candidates’ technological acumen, texting and social media will be the contact methods of choice for most campaigns from here on out. They are able to gather personal information from all sorts of places including voter registrations, former political donations and prior voting histories.
Plus, it’s perfectly legal for campaigns to purchase troves of private information from a third party. Remember, that is one of the reasons California’s new privacy law is so important. It gives people the right to tell a company never to sell private information to a third party. While you may trust a specific organization or company with all your information, you never know to whom they will sell it. In some cases, it may be to political campaigns.
And they sure know how to use that precious information.
Sen. Bernie Sanders has been a pioneer in using volunteer texting teams designed to contact millions of voters. His campaign website has webinars in English and Spanish for the willing to learn how to use their texting platform, Spoke. In the training video, the campaign tells volunteers, “This is the largest, most expansive peer-to-peer texting program in the history of U.S. politics.”
Volunteers get assignments to text between 500-750 phone numbers to connect people on the other end with local campaign events, encourage them to volunteer and to ask for donations. When people reply to a text, the campaign tracks those replies.
Former Vice President Joe Biden is also asking for volunteers to help spread the word via text using the peer-to-peer texting tool Hustle.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s campaign website declares, “Peer-to-peer texting is a modern campaign staple.” Using ThruText, volunteers get initial text assignments to send out 300 texts. If volunteers don’t send out the texts within 30 minutes, they are assigned to someone else. The campaign uses these texts to find out what issues matter to people and asks volunteers to stay on message with replies scripted out for reference.
A spokesman for President Donald Trump’s campaign told McClatchy DC in a statement that “texting is an effective way for us to communicate directly with supporters without going through the bias of social media.”
Every campaign website instructing volunteers on how to send out mass texts made one thing clear. If someone clearly states they want to be removed from the text list, they should do so and know the action is permanent. So if you receive one of these texts and don’t want more you cannot simply ignore the text. You must respond with something like “stop,” “unsubscribe” or “don’t text me.”
I am helping on a congressional campaign for the first time. I was frankly in awe of how much information was at my fingertips when it came to contacting prospective voters. The campaign gave me access to an app that showed me on a map where every registered voter lived. Not only did I have an address, but also a list of everyone in the home who was registered with my candidate’s political party.
Privacy is dead.
Besides texting, you could also be overrun with friends and acquaintances touting one candidate or another on social media.
Specifically you may be seeing a lot of slick graphics for for candidate Pete Buttigieg. His campaign makes it easy for people to share with the Supporter Toolkit. Everything one could possibly want to share to show their love of Pete is ready for download. There are social media downloads, phone wallpapers, life-size cutouts and even a custom Spotify campaign playlist. Artists hand-lettered “Team Pete” signs for each state so supporters could use the custom graphics on their social feeds to spread the word.
As you well know, you can’t go on any social media or streaming service without seeing an ad for Michael Bloomberg these days. But he’s reportedly using some of his millions to pay social media influencers to spread the word. Unlike other campaigns that seem to be relying on volunteers, The Daily Beast reports Bloomberg has offered $150 for influencers to create original content supporting the candidate. The campaign has also partnered with social creators to launch Bloomberg into the meme world. “While a meme strategy may be new to presidential politics,” Bloomberg senior national campaign spokesperson Sabrina Singh told CNBC, “we’re betting it will be an effective component to reach people where they are.”
It’s effective all right. In a 2016 survey, research company Gartner said various sources report people actually tap on text messages with open rates as high as 98%. That is a huge number in contrast to email with only a 20% open rate.
So this method of contact from candidates isn’t going anywhere. And be prepared for the onslaught as more and more campaigns adopt the technology in the years to come.