It’s the end of an era, President Obama’s term is over and we’re living under Trump rule now. Candidates of all stripes can learn from example of what to do after the campaign or elected office ends.
From Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton to a city council race, what you do with your website, email list and social media after Election Day is crucial to your political future– if you want one.
Sanders has taken a popular route — similar to the one Howard Dean took after 2004 — by shifting his campaign over to a new organization. Dean for America became Democracy for America, and the Sanders campaign has become Our Revolution. That makes sense for a presidential-level campaign, with volunteers and resources in all 50 states. Note that Sanders isn’t necessarily prepping to run again, unlike Ted Cruz, who is keeping his campaign more or less under direct control. The Sanders social media accounts are still active and in his voice, which makes sense because he’s built an audience he wants to maintain engagement with.
Hillary Clinton has mostly stepped off the stage, which means the HFA infrastructure she’s built is sitting there unused. She’s slowly started tweeting again, but the future for her (and her campaign) is unclear.
Barack Obama’s OFA infrastructure has revved up after January 20, with on-the-ground organizing of events and his own social media accounts picking up activity. He may be one of the most active former presidents we’ve seen, as his legacy is directly threatened by Trump.
What you can learn from this is that your supporter base is invaluable. But you must keep in touch. Keep emailing your list periodically, keep your social media accounts active to keep your relationship with your supporters alive. It may or may not make sense to transfer your infrastructure to a separate organization, but either way it needs to be maintained.
Make sure that you have full access to everything before the campaign formally ends – if other people were posting to social media and on the website, sending mass emails for the campaign, you will want to make sure you have all logins and passwords to continue, and any instructions needed to operate the mass email software or update the website.
Aim for at least one email a month, if you can, to keep people up to date on what you’re doing on the issues you campaigned on. Social media updates should be more frequent than that – if you don’t have time to put a lot of content out on Facebook and Twitter, perhaps link the two so content is cross-posted. This isn’t generally a good idea, but it’ll do in a pinch.
Make sure to tidy up the campaign website so it has current content info, and old campaign info is hidden or gone. The site itself should be evergreen enough to carry on for another year or two without touching. Make sure the domain name and website hosting is renewed, and the contact info for the registration goes to a real person so it doesn’t slip through the cracks and get captured by spammers (or an opponent).
Finally, be sure to shut down any online fundraising pages, remove donate buttons and links from the website and social media so you don’t need to deal with contribution refunds after the fact.
If all this digital infrastructure is properly maintained, you will have a real boost up when running for office in the future. Or for changing the world as an activist outside the system.