CampaignTech Chicago is coming up fast, where I will be holding a panel to talk about the seamy underbelly of digital politics. How can you defend against dark arts by other campaigns? Here’s a sneak peak, but you’ll need to attend to find out all about the campaign dirty online tricks!
What’s in a name?
Make sure you own your own domain names – and check to see whether your opponents have left some obvious ones on the market. This can happen to any level of campaign – Ted Cruz and many others learned it the hard way. You’d be surprised how many campaigns and IEs fail to cover their bases on this one. It’s not only embarrassing, and a potential news story, but there could be some seo effects as well. Note that the National Republican Campaign Committee had a coordinated effort in 2014 to squat on the domains of Democratic candidates. It could happen again if you leave yourself open.
Trolling on social media
We’re all aware of the horror stories of politicians + Twitter. Since many politicians handle their own Twitter accounts, this is a way you can get under your opponent’s skin and enable them to make a self-inflicted wound. Start a parody Twitter account and they may personally freak out and make it a story – or in Trump’s case, Gawker played right into his vanity. (Twitter policy on parody accounts here.)
Slide into their Twitter mentions or comment on their Facebook posts with a particular message or issue. Keep up the drumbeat on the issues you care about, or hold them accountable for their past words and actions. Bonus points if you can deliver a good burn while you’re at it.
Note that this is definitely happening already on the Presidential level, with (paid or unpaid?) trolls attempting to fan the Hillary-Bernie flames and divide Democrats.
On the defensive side, always keep your cool and watch out for floods of antagonistic bots and trolls — ignore them rather than wasting your time and temper by engaging. If they really step over the line, report them and their accounts may be suspended or removed. I recommend muting rather than blocking, because blocking tells them that they got under your skin.
Side note: make sure you take potentially negative Twitter accounts off the market, pre-emptively. Same for negative website URLs. Make them have to work harder when they attack you.
Take over search
Google adwords can be a pretty inexpensive tool – be sure to run them on your opponent’s name as well as your own. Going back to domains, if you own a good domain with their name on it, this would be a good place to amplify the content via paid search & social as well as some search engine optimization so it shows up high in organic results too. The Santorum googlebomb was all organic, as far as I know.
Be prepared for hacking, DDOS attacks and more
Don’t put confidential information into an email, ever. Use 2 factor authentication for security, at a minimum–especially for email and public-facing social media accounts. Make sure your website is hardened and you know who to contact & how if you get hacked, or a flood of traffic takes down your website. Make regular backups of your data, just in case, and keep your anti-virus software updated.
These are just a few examples of ways your campaign can fight the power of the dark side, digitally speaking. Come to our session in Chicago to find out more, and be sure to contact PowerThru if you need help defending against some dark arts online.