When President Obama was elected for the second time in 2012, only 35% of Americans owned a smartphone. Today, that percentage is higher than 65%, and growing. The 2016 U.S. presidential election has proven content marketing is a serious player in the industry. Today, less people are consuming traditional media, and the time spent on the internet has risen. According to Digital Trends, Americans spend 4.7 hours a day on their phones. That is more than a third of our day spent staring at a little glowing screen. Millennials will come close to matching the Baby Boomer’s voting power come November, and 61% of millennials get their political news from Facebook! With this kind of change happening in the media environment, Politicians have taken note, and are creating huge content footprints on social media. What can content creators learn from this election? We’ve broken it down by candidate.
Recently, students at George Washington University came up with The Peoria Project, a study that delves into the growth of presidential candidates through shares and mentions on the internet. Bernie Sanders is the sole candidate that has seen continual growth online since announcing his candidacy, while competitors like Clinton and Bush peaked when they announced their participation in the 2016 presidential race. So, what exactly is Sanders doing that gives him an edge online?
He’s authentic. But isn’t that how all the candidates are trying to be perceived? Well, yeah. In an article for The New York Times, Bernie admitted that he’s deeply involved in the content creation released by his campaign, and when you see a Facebook status coming from Bernie’s page, he’s usually the one actually writing it. He’s good with words, after all, he used to be a journalist. As for his message, it’s incredibly straightforward. He posts solely about the issues he knows matter to his constituents.
“I’m a grumpy old guy,” Mr. Sanders joked when explaining his approach to posting online. “I know that people talk about their cats and ‘I’m walking to the grocery store and getting a can of chicken soup’ and ‘this is so exciting.’ By and large, we have not done that.”
He doesn’t shy away from long-form content (especially on his Facebook statuses), either. While content marketers are often trained to produce “snackable” content, Sanders proves that if your audience believes in your message enough, they’ll share it regardless of length.
His slogan, “This is your movement”, gives all the power to those who support him. It’s perfect for today’s marketing environment, where advertising is most potent when it’s personalized.
As for Hillary, she’s using the “I’m just like you” approach. Example #1: Her bio on Instagram reads: “Doting grandmother, among other things.” Her reputation has come off as cold and calculated in previous years, so her marketing team is taking steps to make her seem more human. Hey, it’s not a bad strategy, especially if her main demographic is women. She even has a cute Pinterest account (hint hint: a huge majority of Pinterest users happen to be women) with boards ranging from “Women Who Inspire”, “Memorable Moments”, “Signature Style”, and “What We’re Fighting For”. She’s incorporating more of her character into her political persona, along with making sure her most important running points are clear.
She also tends to make more emotional plays through social media, such as when a 9-year old boy in New Hampshire wanted to meet her at her campaign, she sent him to school with a note she personally signed, and instagrammed it.
The Huffington Post alludes to Trump as “The Candidate That Content Marketing Built” in a recent article. Whether you are completely terrified at the prospect of him leading our nation, or you have found a way to believe in him, you can’t ignore that he’s a branding genius.
He’s consistent. He’s been in the public eye for about the last thirty years, and has used the media to construct an image. Through “The Apprentice” he came face to face with the American public, who came to know him as a brutal, cold-blooded businessman. He also garnered attention from one of the largest watched TV networks in the pre-smartphone days, NBC. Even if it was negative news, such as the multiple divorces he’s been involved in, or slandering celebrities via Twitter, he’s never strayed far from public consciousness. It proves that in some cases, there really is no such thing as “bad publicity”.
He also has an incredible understanding of American voters as a market. He knows that there are a lot of people out there that are fed-up with Washington D.C. types, and so he positioned himself as precisely the opposite.
While Bernie typically goes the long-form route, Trump sends out a “snackable” message. His statements are concise and direct. They are also often incredibly vague. It actually works in his favor, because he just wants to send out a bold, blanket message to get people fired up.
He’s confident! And he’s undeniably an expert in his field, something you need to be to win at content marketing. He’s also great at getting attention through shock value.
There is a lot we can take from the 2016 presidential race when it comes to content marketing. These strategies are vastly different from each other, but each powerful when used in the right setting, for the right brand. There are a few undeniable must-haves in content marketing though: authenticity, consistency, and knowledge of your market.