Hail To The Digital ChiefIn the past week Americans have taken the first steps towards selecting the next U.S. president. During the Iowa Caucus and the New Hampshire Presidential Primary, citizens in those states traditionally select their favorite Democratic and Republican candidates, sometimes changing expectations entirely – for example, in 1976 the Iowa Caucus propelled the relatively-unknown Jimmy Carter onto his presidential trajectory. While these events have long been part of the U.S. election process, the 2008 campaign has been especially notable for candidates\’ digital politicking.

We talked about this back in August, noting that Democratic Caucus-winner Sen. Barack Obama made extensive use of mobile messaging campaigns (see Politicians And Politicians Are Perfect Running Mates). Candidates from both sides, including Chuck Norris favorite Mike Huckabee (the Republican winner in Iowa) and New Hampshire champs and Senators Hillary Clinton and John McCain, are using email to notify supporters of upcoming events and send them links to new blog and video posts.

What\’s notable isn\’t just the use of digital media and digital messages: It\’s that these are permission-based and, in some cases, targeted. Politicians are asking for people to sign up to receive messages, as well as asking for such diverse personal information as a voter\’s favorite cause or alma mater. These can help ensure that they send out messages about, for example, Hillary Clinton repeating her 1992 appearance at Ohio University only to those who know the difference between that school and Ohio State.

All this may seem like a no-brainer to the knowledgeable digital marketer. But political candidates don\’t always have to adhere to the same laws that prevent commercial promoters from making unwanted contact with consumers: They are allowed to cold-call private cell phone numbers, and are exempt from email regulations in the U.S. CAN-SPAM law. That they\’re regulating themselves anyway, and refraining from bombarding constituents with unwanted messages, shows a heightened savvy that\’s admirable even if you don\’t admire their political leanings.

And candidates are displaying just as much savoir-faire when it comes to composing the messages themselves. ClickZ noted this week that presidential hopefuls are doing all the right things – super-short subject lines; letter-like, rather than ad-like, content; and staying on-message.

All the would-be presidents seem to agree that it\’s important to be savvy digital campaigners. Too bad it\’s not that easy to agree on healthcare, immigration, Iraq, and every other issue on voters\’ minds.

Eydie Cubarrubia
Marketing Communications Manager, mobileStorm
\”I\’d rather you text me\”