Go Where The Fish Are

This week, the excellent TechPresident posted an article reporting around data from the Pew Internet & American Life Project that reveals how individuals gather information on the US election. Here are the highlights:

  • A mere five percent have signed up to receive text messages from a campaign or related group
  • Only eight percent have used an app from a candidate
  • 45 percent of smartphone-wielding voters have used their phone to read comments about the campaign on social networking sites

So, despite the effort by campaigns on both sides to build and promote these apps, only a very (very!) small number of people (read: committed supporters) are using those apps as a source for information on this year’s campaign. A much greater number are using their smartphones to access existing social networks such as Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and various online news sites to keep informed on election news.

What does this mean? It means that Facebook, as an example, has 1 Billion users for a reason. It is an established, known destination for users looking to interact with their peers. It has a critical mass of daily users that already exists. People are already visiting on a daily or weekly basis. It is part of their routine; a part of their life.

Contrast that will a shiny new app that has just been published by a partisan source. It already has multiple strikes against it. Firstly, it is a new source that people have to download or navigate to that is outside of their existing social profiles. Secondly, by definition it is only appealing to a subgroup of people. Yes, people like the user – but not like the general population at large.

While an app may get your organization headlines at launch, in the long run it is a much steeper climb to get users to move to somewhere new. That goes for apps, websites or social networks. Especially when resources are thin, it makes a lot more sense to set up a presence where people already visit.

Facebook, Twitter and Google+ have done all the heavy lifting getting people to use their social networks. Rather than becoming a competitor for attention, work within their ecosystem to allow your supporters to spread your campaign’s message amongst their established personal social networks.

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