In April 2010, I wrote the article “How President Barack Obama’s Use of Social Media in Campaigning Really Changed Politics”. In it I noted, “Obama was indeed the first politician to prove out the tremendous power of social media if used with a positive, individual interest, networking message strategy, especially if appealing to voters younger than 30.”
I summarized then, “In reality, Obama didn’t just change politics by using social media – social media itself is what changed politics. The real story of how Obama’s campaign social media use changed politics is very simple in reality. He taught ‘the world’ by stellar example the importance of its use as a tool in winning anything by creating buzz, momentum, connection, and image.”
Technology is anything but stagnant, and the newest social media tool momentum is the mobile application. Just like Facebook and Twitter in the 2008 political campaigns, mobile apps are the latest “must have” in reaching out and “touching and engaging” potential voters and supporters.
Campaign Touch CEO, Cami Zimmer works with political candidate clients in this environment every day. She began her career working at The White House in Washington, D.C. For over a decade, Ms. Zimmer worked on public policy issues, managed campaigns, and ran non-profit organizations.
Campaign Touch was founded on the idea of helping create powerful campaigns through the use of technology. They have partnered with the nation's best mobile companies for app development and SMS (text) campaigns and surveys. Campaign Touch has offices in Washington D.C., California, and Minnesota. Dave Miller and Denise Marcantonio are running California’s Bay Area offices, and Gaye Galvin is running the D.C. office.
Knowing that technology plays an important role in all aspects of business, politics and campaigns, Cami Zimmer brings her knowledge of digital and mobile communications to assist political consultants and candidates, PACs, non-profit organizations, ad agencies and businesses.
She knows an effective political campaign must include a mobile app in its marketing and communication strategy as well as a website, Facebook, and Twitter. She offers, “A website is the meal, and a mobile app is the appetizer.”
Embracing this analogy, I would add, Facebook is having coffee or tea discussing the events of the day, and YouTube is the real-time video you shot. Twitter is the thought you want to share with a friend or hundreds of thousands of friends. Twitter can also be seen as the meal menu of sorts for all of your communication offerings and your directives. Cami agrees.
Zimmer recommends both traditional tools and new direction tools for a campaign. “Traditional tools include television, radio, newspapers, and direct mail. These are still highly important to a campaign. New direction tools include mobile apps, text campaigns and surveys, online advertising, social media (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, blogs), and viral campaigns.”
Many times, she must start by explaining the basics of mobile apps to her new clients. For example, what is the main difference between iPhone and Android applications? She tutors, “iPhone is a touch screen mobile phone developed and supplied by Apple. Android is Google’s Linux based mobile OS that has powered many smart phones. Both Apple iPhone and Google Android have their own app store. Apple has Apple app store, and Android has Android Market.”
Zimmer often also includes the difference between a mobile site and a mobile app in her technology introduction to new clients. “A mobile site is a smaller version of a website. A mobile app is about building user interaction and engagement. With a web/mobile site, you almost need to keep remarketing to followers to get them to return to your site. The Internet is a huge place, and websites can tend to get lost in the Internet world.”
She continues, “With a mobile app, you can have iconic placement on a person's phone - meaning you have the icon (in this case, your logo) on a person's phone at all times. They can find you with one touch of a button on their phone. You can also create app alerts on a mobile app which flags the icon on a person's phone. This calls them to return to the mobile app to see what you want to tell them.”
“Mobile apps create a 1 to 1 message directly to your user. It's like a personal conversation. You have the ability to control the worth of your mobile app user conversation. Mobile apps are quite engaging, and engagement is a key to business.”
“One of the key benefits of a mobile app is it they will work when the phone is offline - not connected to a network. Obviously the app won’t be able to update with new data if it’s not connected with a news app, but everything that is already installed or downloaded will be permanently available. Another benefit is apps generally run faster. This means there is no delay moving from one screen to the next. It is a better user experience for your supporter or client.”
She advises, “Considering most people TiVo the programs they watch skipping over commercials, and most people listen to Ipods not the radio, and people rarely read the newspaper in print; one is forced to find other ways to reach their target audience.”
Zimmer qualifies the need or “the why” for clients. “Statistics show people are online and on their mobile phones more than anything. To find your target audience, you need to market to them where they are. They are online and on their mobile phones.”
“In 2014, mobile Internet usage will overtake desktop Internet usage. Already in 2011, more than 50% of all ‘local’ searches are done from a mobile device. It’s notable that 86% of mobile users are watching TV while using a mobile phone, 200+ million or 1/3 of all users access Facebook from a mobile device, and 91% of all mobile Internet use is ‘social’ related.”
Zimmer sums up the necessity, “For years, I have heard this is the year of mobile. Every year, mobile becomes bigger and bigger, but it has still yet to explode. 2011 will be that year.”
“Mobile hasn't taken off until now for one simple reason. Only a small percentage of users accessed the Internet on their cell phones in 2008, 2009 and most of 2010. Most feature phones can access the Internet, but it’s slow and tedious.”
“You need a smartphone to really be able to use the Internet on your phone. But until recently, smartphones have been too expensive for many people. Android phones exploded in 2010 bringing the cost down. Often the cost is less than $50. This is less than many feature phones.”
She notes, “Holiday season 2010 helped the smartphone market explode. Even in a poor economy, there were record sales in the fourth quarter of 2010. According to the Nielsen Group, sales of smartphones will surpass feature phones in the third quarter of 2011.”
Cami Zimmer offers realism to clients, “If you don’t go mobile, you may find it hard to reach your target audience. One thing is for sure—businesses, nonprofits, and political candidates need to do something in mobile for their marketing. If you haven’t thought about it yet, now is the time to start or you will be left behind.”
Zimmer generously shares her expertise with what she recommends for an initial mobile app strategy to her clients. “A large part of a mobile strategy will really be about defining who your audience is and what your audiences’ experiences are. User experiences for mobile are like science, you can’t afford to get it wrong. It is about getting into the daily lives of your target audience.”
“The second part of a strategy is in knowing your customer through a customer profile. What do they like? When do they like to receive it? What are their habits? What will engage them?”
“Our next step is to determine what your brand perception is going to be. We want the end user to associate your brand or message with a positive mobile experience.”
She offers in detail, “We will want to talk about these classes of activities and the importance of them."
ENLIGHTENMENT with apps, as they create awareness, alerting, and enlightening.
CONNECTING with apps to improve communication. Mobile apps provide seamless ways to streamline and accelerate the flow of information.
CAPTURING with apps to streamline the acquisition of information, data, and knowledge.
COLLABORATING with apps to make it easier to share knowledge and ideas.
Campaign Touch partners with one of the top mobile companies UIEvolution. They have over ten years experience in developing products and solutions that power connected app experience on mobile phones, tablets, TVs, and autos. UIEvolution has experience in marrying technology with design and usability, which is very important in these emerging markets like political apps.
Chris Ruff, CEO of UIEvolution, explains “We provide an end-to-end process to drive solutions from research through production, offering our clients a true end-to-end partnership. We begin our process with conceptualization and visualization to develop concepts leading to a concrete design idea that is visualized through images, task flow modeling, and interaction guidelines to communicate that idea”.
Ruff details, “We work closely to reach your target audience on their existing devices and ensure application services are available on new technologies as they enter the market. We ensure content remains dynamic and fresh with ongoing management through our software services to respond to consumer trends and ensure quality of service.”
As a political industry expert, Cami Zimmer knows a mobile phone app must meet many political campaign needs for successful inclusion into the overall communication and engagement strategy. Strategy must include elements that achieve supporters and potential supports being engaged and feeling connected to the candidate and the campaign. Strategy must allow for donations to be made quickly and easily.”
“A campaign strategy must bring all of the candidate’s social media together in one place and be able to virally spread your message and GOTV to friends. We need to utilize mobile to reach your supporters.”
She muses, “Years ago, campaigns debated whether or not they needed a website. Today, all campaigns have a website. The same is true now for mobile apps. Soon all campaigns will have a mobile app.”
Keeping an eye on trends for her clients and for strategy elements for their campaigns, Zimmer notes, “All in all, the carriers are bracing for exponential growth in mobile data usage which has been spawned by the increase in smartphones and the new mobile ecosystems. It’s apparent the cell phone is the one device that people use to manage their lives.”
“I know that the 2011 and 2012 campaigns will be more mobile based, simply because mobile is everywhere. In 2010, mobile apps hit 8.2 billion downloads and $5.2 billion in revenue. Prepare for 2011 to blow these numbers out of the water!”
Zimmer shares, “The research firm, Gartner predicts worldwide mobile app revenue will triple this year, reaching $15.1 billion in 2011 with 17.7 billion downloads. By 2014, Gartner estimates over 185 billion applications will have been downloaded from mobile app stores worldwide.”
“Their research states that out of the estimated 17.7 downloaded apps this year, 81% will be free download. The percentage of free downloads is expected to decrease though, and Gartner believes users will pay for more applications when two things are in place. First, when people see added value in mobile ads. And second, when people become more trustful of mobile app billing mechanisms. The growing acceptance of Quick Reference (QR) Code interest will also be a factor."