Beto O’Rourke ran a campaign for U.S. Senate earlier this year. It was based entirely on individual donors to finance his campaign.

Relying 100% on your supporters to finance your campaign requires one hell of an audience development strategy, wouldn’t you agree?

Beto focused heavily on social media for his-top-of funnel strategy, using platforms like Facebook and Instagram to document even the most mundane campaign activities including live videos of road trip gas stops, campaigning door-to-door, and even his morning jogs. The result was hundreds of thousands of followers, hundreds of shares for almost every video he posted, and spin-off groups in dozens of cities throughout the state.

I assume you are already producing quality content that your audience wants to read, much like the strong message that Beto brought to communities across Texas.

What can audience developers learn from watching the Beto campaign? A lot.

1. Create and distribute content regularly. Although social media is certainly a dwindling source of traffic for most publishers, it’s by no means irrelevant. Social media should sit firmly in the top of your funnel as a big opportunity for exposing your brand and your content to new and existing audiences.

2. Create a personal connection with your audience. Campaigns are often made and broken by the like-ability of a candidate. But publishers and brands should consider the personal connection they are making with their audiences. Let audiences see behind the scenes of your organization, tap into user-generated content, and showcase leadership in an approachable fashion.

3. Make it easy to engage. Niche publishers often struggle with subscriptions and email collection because they aren’t making it easy for the consumer! I think it’s safe to say that your consumer is very rarely visiting your website to try to find a way to give you their email address or give you money. You have to ask. Make it clear what you want the consumer to do by putting those call-to-actions front and center.

When you arrive on Beto’s website, there are six different ways to further engage with the campaign, all above the fold. Publishers should employ seamless checkout processes into their subscription pages and tap into third parties like Paypal, Venmo or Apple Pay to make it as easy as possible for the consumer.

Distribute content, engage your audience, ask for the purchase, and make the process easy peasy.

Certainly none of this is a novel concept. It’s audience development 101, but so often publishers fall short in any one of these areas. Sometimes it’s technology limitations, sometimes it’s competing priorities. But niche publishers take note… sometimes there isn’t much of a difference between publishing and a political movement.


Editor’s note: This article has been updated from the original.



More about Melissa:  Melissa Chowning is an audience development expert and CEO of Twenty-First Digital operating in Dallas, TX. Twenty-First Digital takes a deep dive into deep-dive into digital strategies and audience development efforts to help you find no-nonsense ways to effectively drive traffic and supercharge interactions with your audience for tangible and lasting results. She studied communications at the University of North Texas, and has made her mark as a development leader for prominent brands, including Portland Monthly, Seattle Met, D Magazine, and D Custom. Melissa was recognized in 2016 as one of Folio’s top 100 Most Important People in Magazine Media.


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