From time to time I get asked for my opinion about digital strategy for SF elections. I'd like to share here a few of the top things that I think would be effective today. Would love to hear other ideas and feedback in the comments!
One of the important things to recognize in SF today is the changing nature of the creative class and how influential the emerging creators from Gen X and Y really are. Knowledge work is the driver of modern industry and SF is the Mecca for these folks around the world. Software developers, for example, often do what the do for the joy of creating something out of nothing - the same kind of force that drives painters and sculptors. The same with bloggers and other multi-media creators.
There are thousands and thousands of these folks in SF, and they cross demographic boundaries.
They are also very influential, generally progressive but pragmatic and not tightly tied to a particular ideology or historical movement. Many of them are not registered with a party. They are also very open and easy to engage with, as long as you have a thick skin (which anyone running for SF mayor must).
Some things I would do if I were running for mayor in SF today, and that would benefit any candidate:
- Attend as many of the public networking/mixer-style SF Meetups as possible;
- Meet the local photographer groups and join their photo walks;
- Use Twitter and Tumblr to share quick bursts of real thoughts and actions, not press releases;
- Interact with people who respond on social media channels;
- Work with Yelp and Open Table to integrate SF restaurant health inspection scores with reviews from those sites to save millions in public health costs;
- Comment on local blogs covering the race and interact openly with other commenters;
- Hire a digital strategist to work full time on setting up opportunities and identifying platforms to get your message out. I have a friend in mind who really should be working for one of the campaigns - won't mention his name here because he is currently employed.
- All of these new media are dramatically public. Each interaction is magnified.
- and, shameless plug, use NationBuilder (where I am chief organizer) for your campaign. It is simply the best grassroots advocacy software platform available, and it is very inexpensive.
All of this advice is what I would tell anyone, and have told others. It is good advice. I wish I'd know a lot more about this stuff - and about traditional voter outreach and election strategy - when I ran for Congress two years ago.
(My company, NationBuilder, does not endorse candidates or take consulting fees. Neither do NationBuilder employees take consulting fees for candidates or political organizations. Personally, I like my former boss, SF City Attorney Dennis Herrera, for mayor, but there are several good candidates and it's great that SF voters get the chance to pick three with ranked choice voting this year. Individual members and officers of SF Tech Dems have varying opinions and favorites in local elections - as a club we exist to provide grassroots technology advice to municipal and state officials and politicians and to enccourage technologists to be active in the Democratic Party. Need advice? Just ask!)