Real Time Communications Featured Article

Lost Opportunities: Real Time Communications in the 2016 Primaries

February 11, 2016

In a Twitter-driven world, with people hanging on every comment from the current crop of (ever shrinking) presidential candidates, why hasn't anyone embraced more real-time communications channels? The @realdonaldtrump handle has out gunned everyone in fast and controversial statements, but there's more to the social media world than Tweets.

Iowa and New Hampshire seem to have won in part by old-fashioned, face-to-face politicking, the whole concept of a "ground game" where legions of volunteers flock into a state to suck up hotel rooms and go door-to-door to hand out flyers and pitch voters. 

Cruz reportedly won Iowa because he had the best ground game -- door-to-door sales people, essentially, while Kasich bootstrapped himself into a target in New Hampshire by placing second with his retail marketing.

Conversely, Donald Trump didn't do well in Iowa because he thought he could talk and advertise his way into the hearts and minds of voters without sweating the details.  Trump also had issues, but apparently not injurious ones, by jetting between New Hampshire and New York without spending a lot of ground time mixing with the masses.

No one has cracked the code in having an integrated campaign strategy putting together the power of social media with traditional methods such as live events and TV advertising yet.  No one is hash tagging their way to the #Whitehouse or leveraging other mechanisms to reach out and engage voters.

For instance, it would have cost Donald Trump almost nothing -- and I know he hates to spend his own money on the campaign -- to setup a Google Hangout or other WebRTC-driven event to engage with voters in Iowa and New Hampshire.  His campaign managers are almost as social media-tone deaf as everyone else these days so you can't really fault him for not doing electronic town hall events, but there's nothing stopping him or any other candidate from doing so in the weeks and months to come.

When it comes to presidential politics, people want to feel like they've made a connection with the candidate.  Not everyone can come to a live rally, but anyone can attend an electronic town hall.

Imagine if one or more of the presidential candidates held a series of "Fireside chats" using WebRTC, answering questions in real time or near real-time via Twitter, Facebook, email, and/or video.  Rand Paul and Carly Fiorina, both allegedly tech candidates, could have reached to voters and campaign volunteers to state their positions and rally the troops.   

Donald Trump could have conducted a more extensive engagement plan in Iowa by the simple expedient of having a small group of volunteers roll around into town hall meetings with a laptop and a projector, adding "exclusivity" to the event by only taking questions from the people in attendance while demonstrating some new tricks.  Even if people couldn't attend in person, Trump would have demonstrated he was trying to reach people in new ways outside of "establishment" practices.

And it is clear candidates need to find ways other than Twitter to reach voters in real time.  Sure there is also Facebook and Instagram, but real-time communication can provide a more personalized engagement opportunity for candidates pressed for travel time and wanting to get the most out of their campaign dollars.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi

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