There are two types of election campaigns. There is the primary and the general election campaign. The primary is an election of one or more candidates of a particular party seeking an elected office. The winners of each party’s primary election (and any independent candidates) goes on to run in the general election. The general election then decides the final winner to hold office.
General elections tend to have a higher voter turnout than primary elections.
Candidates work hard to secure a primary victory. Then they shift their campaigning for the general election. Many times a candidate does not want to put in the effort of pursuing online opportunities until after they’ve secured a primary.
For example, a candidate may be running unopposed in their party. Because of this, there may be little reason to put a lot of effort into early voter outreach. They figure that after they’ve won the primary, that will be the time to begin aggressive campaigning.
That strategy can be a mistake.
General elections tend to have a higher voter turnout than primary elections. Even if a candidate is a shoo-in for a primary win, they still need to motivate those primary voters for the general election.
Here are five reasons why candidates should start online campaigning early:
1) A website can make it easier to win the primary. For the same reasons a campaign website will help a candidate win a general election, it will also help in a primary. The focus of the site will, of course, be somewhat different between the two campaigns. During the primary, the focus will be on members of the same party. Afterward, the focus can be tailored more toward the general electorate.
2) Starting early helps build momentum. If you plan on doing social networking, you should get your supporters on board as early as possible. By the time the general election rolls around, those supporters can help build larger momentum. Get out the vote (GOTV) efforts are much easier when you have volunteers lined up early.
3) Websites are great fundraising tools. The earlier a candidate starts raising money, the better. The barriers to entry are low. The costs are low. And the potential upside is tremendous.
4) Your voters are online. Online is everywhere. Voters turn to the web for news, candidate, and issue information. If you don’t establish yourself online, someone else will.
5) Everyone else is doing it. Well, not everyone – yet. After the 2008 presidential election, interest in online campaigning exploded. Today, the political candidate who does NOT have an online presence is in the minority.
Online campaigning is a powerful way to reach supporters, raise donation money and motivate voters.
We are seeing candidates starting their online campaigns more than a year out from Election Day. They might not be actively campaigning, but they are laying a foundation. They are starting social media accounts, registering domain names, starting a campaign website, building an email list, and preparing to accept online donations.
Starting early is critical to building support that leads to success on Election Day. If you wait too long, you may find yourself playing catch-up on the home stretch.
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