Republican candidates are using a mix of old and new-media marketing tools to reach state voters for the important New Hampshire primary on Tuesday.
New Hampshire is a good market for innovative social media campaigns. More than three quarters of the state's residents have broadband at home, slightly more than Massachusetts households. Nevertheless, the Republicans haven't had a lot of time to work on Granite State voters. To do so, they're relying on a mix of new and old marketing.
The candidates all have established social media presences. Each of the Republican candidates has done well by developing an online presence that reflects the candidate's personality and message, ranging from the sleek and professional (Mitt Romney) to the edgy (Ron Paul) to the... to the... to Rick Perry.
All have Twitter and Facebook pages. Most have Flickr collections and YouTube channels. All but Santorum have Google+ pages. The candidates often have Foursquare pages for their own travels or their campaign headquarters.
New Hampshire is a tricky traditional media market. The state has just one commercial network station (an ABC affiliate in Manchester) along with one independent UHF station. As a result, candidates have to buy relatively expensive airtime on Boston stations to reach the heavily populated southern New Hampshire market. With the exception of Jon Huntsman, the candidates started running their TV ads after the Iowa caucuses.
There is one statewide newspaper, the Manchester Union-Leader (that has endorsed Newt Gingrich) and several regional dailies. Gingrich took out a full-page ad in the Union-Leader, prompting a blogger for the National Review to question the tactic's effectiveness:
A Facebook friend chuckled recently, "Newt Gingrich buys full-page newspaper ad in New Hampshire criticizing Romney. Yeahhhh: I suppose if proposing those seven 3-hour Lincoln-Douglas style debates hasn’t won over the voters, full-page ads like it’s 1988 should do the trick."
The Sunlight Group is reporting that the SuperPACs have started to spend money on behalf of the candidates. Most of the money is going to TV advertising. A few SuperPACs are in the Twittersphere, but Stephen Colbert's SuperPAC is still the most popular on Facebook.
We thought we might see a few antics from Eric Fehrnstrom, a.k.a. "Mitt's Pit Bull," who divides his time between the Romney campaign and the re-election bid of Senator Scott Brown (R-MA). Colleague Keith Dawson wrote about Fehrnstrom sending mocking tweets under a fake account, attacking one of the Democratic senatorial candidates. Fehrnstrom appears to now be busy enough with his day jobs to stay away from fake tweets.
The candidates added a few innovations:
- Rick Perry, who has already headed to South Carolina, has a Blogger Action Center page that enlists bloggers on his behalf. We haven't seen any data about the effectiveness of this effort.
- Romney is the only candidate to use Tout, showing short video clips about life with the Romneys.
- Ron Paul has a clickable map on his home page that shows the number of social media followers in each state.
The Internet and social media were innovative and forward-thinking in the 2004 Howard Dean run and the 2008 presidential campaigns. Now they're becoming mainstream. The GOP presidential candidates this year have built on prior experiences and executed well, using the Web and social media to inform the curious, engage the committed, and, of course, raise money.
What do you think? Which of the current slate of presidential candidates has done the best job using social media marketing?
— Karl Hakkarainen is an independent consultant who works with organizations and professionals in healthcare, law, education, and social services for whom marketing is a novel and somewhat suspect venture. He applies his 30+ years of connected communications to help them tell their stories in ways that fit within their traditions and the laws of their professions. Karl is a graduate of Amherst College and of Mount Wachusett Community College.
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