For Campaigns, Social Media the New Block Walking

“Block walking is so 2008.

Instead, candidates have embraced low-cost (in many cases free), high-impact (as in viral) campaign tools to reach would-be supporters on a 24/7 cycle of electioneering that’s changing the game for underdogs and raising the bar for established politicos….

In the high-profile race to replace retiring U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, former Solicitor General Ted Cruz is using digital campaigning to build a grassroots “army” of supporters to challenge Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst.

The Cruz campaign is targeting voters with online ad buys aimed at niche demographics — namely the young and tech savvy with a buck to spare.

“Cruz’s team has been the most cutting edge and has had the greatest benefit from their online presence,” said Republican strategist Matt Mackowiak…“He issues a lot of web videos, particularly early on, they are very active on Twitter and they engage activists and donors,” Mackowiak added….Dewhurst and Leppert had name recognition. And they’ve financed their own campaigns with $9 million and $3.6 million, respectively. Cruz has thrown in less than $500,000 in personal funds, according to federal records.

Cruz’s remedy was an online strategy that included a mix of a heavy social media presence, a series of online videos targeting Dewhurst, and outreach to bloggers and radio hosts in hopes of gaining exposure.

Cruz has 22,000 Twitter followers compared to Dewhurst’s 3,800 and Leppert’s 9,000. On Facebook — Cruz has 78,000 “Likes.” Dewhurst trails with 26,500 and Leppert with less than 24,000.

Vincent Harris, a digital media consultant for Cruz, attributed the digital campaign trend to that fact that about 25 percent of Americans now use the web as their first source for news.

Meanwhile, the rise of DVRs means that many viewers bypass television commercials when watching a recorded program.

Harris said that has forced campaigns to advertise online, although the “political world is centered around television advertising.”

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