The Overlooked Campaign: Digital Marketing in the 2016 Election

Erics Presidential Post
Eric Yarnik
October 27, 2016

As the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election winds to a close (cue a collective sigh of relief), it’s safe to assume there will be many books written on the historic nature of this election season.

2016 has also been a momentous election for another reason, one that hasn’t been covered in the news or parodied by SNL, and that’s the importance of digital marketing. If you don’t think digital marketing is important in today’s political campaigns I have one word (or gif) for you.


From the primary season, all the way to election day, the influence of digital media and social channels have been immense. We’ve gathered some of the top digital marketing insights below.


Social media

Both presidential hopefuls have acknowledged the importance of social media in the current state of politics by being active on social media, especially Facebook and Twitter.

To put it lightly, any political happenings send reverberations across all major social media channels. For example, political pundits now report on “moments” from the debates and each candidate is being referenced in near-constant social media posts and conversations.

Hillary Clinton has embraced the use of almost every social media channel out there. She’s utilized Twitter and YouTube to announce her candidacy in addition to being active on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Periscope.

Trump is a very active Twitter user in addition to Facebook and Instagram. Both candidates have created Snapchat filters targeting each other. Clinton first made one for a Trump rally last May and Trump launched a nationwide anti-Clinton Snapchat filter for the first debate.

Both candidates’ social media usage has also been a popular topic. There was a New York Times editorial on Trump’s Twitter usage. Clinton’s “Delete Your Account” rebuttal was one of the most widely shared tweets of the 2016 election.

Moving forward, it’s clear that a strong social media presence will continue to be an important factor in presidential campaigns.


Conversion rate optimization

We all know how important conversion rate optimization is for companies, but how important is it to elections? It turns out CRO is very important when raising money for an election.

Obama proved this in 2012, and Aaron Orendorff over at Unbounce has compiled an insightful analysis of the 2016 candidates’ website conversion rate optimization strategies.

Conversion rate optimization experts note the psychological differences in phrasing and tone in regards to requesting donations between the candidates’ websites. It’s also key to take note of the conversion funnel experience.

Check out the Unbounce article and see for yourself. The two candidates differ on the amount of content, use of pop-ups, and calls-to-action. Consistent testing seems to be the best way to drive improvements in website fundraising. After all, everyone hopes for results that make you go…






No Bernie, we aren’t going to be discussing Hillary Clinton’s emails here. Instead, we’re referring to the candidates’ email marketing campaigns.

While conversion rate optimization is important once users are on the website, email campaigns are crucial to driving users to the site and to perform a specific action, like donating.

Whereoware compiled a snapshot of the candidate’s email efforts. Overall, Trump had a higher email open rate while Clinton had nearly 8 times more subscribers.

Clinton’s campaign has been noted for its extensive email campaign. MarTech Advisor notes that Clinton’s personal touches, headlines, and stylized emails have separated her from the pack, leading to 59% of survey respondents admitting the emails were the catalyst of their donation.

The huge difference in the number of email subscribers is unique, but it’s likely because Trump did not start focusing on email blasts until after the GOP primaries. In fact, Trump sent far fewer emails and had far fewer emails on his list than most of his GOP rivals.


Google results

Search Engine Land has been analyzing Trump & Clinton’s use of a new Google program that highlights a carousel of a candidate’s own content. While both candidates have been using this feature, both have been using it inconsistently at their own discretion.

They might not be seeing significant results from the feature, but one would assume they would want to highlight their own messaging and content as much as possible. An example of Clinton’s carousel is below, while Trump is not currently using this feature.



Digital marketing: The real winner of 2016

Digital marketing continues to rise in importance to political campaigns and 2016 only supports this trend. Time and time again, political fundraising is crucial to a candidate’s success and digital marketing is now one of the most effective ways of doing so.

While there is plenty to analyze for future candidates and campaigns, the 2016 battleground should not be overlooked.



Any other things you’ve noticed about the digital element of the 2016 election? We need to know. Tweet us at @Perfect_Search

Eric Yarnik
Director, Search & Social Advertising

Eric Yarnik is a Northwestern University Alum who considers writing the Perfect Search Ping Pong Power Rankings Column to be one of his favorite tasks at work. If he had to pick one fictional character to be friends with, it’d have to be the one who lives in a pineapple under the sea.

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