Cover Story: The Direct Marketing Election
However, others may think their privacy has been violated, he says. "Some people have no problem sharing how they feel about the issues, while there are other groups who may just want to share about yoga and parenting, and they don't want anyone to know about their political beliefs," explains Donnelly. "Social media is still fairly new, and so is how comfortable people [are] about things like Facebook tracking their moves on the Internet."
Despite all that, Donnelly believes political candidates and political advocacy groups—like commercial marketers—should continue to at least get people to "Like" them, as it's a great way to get "a basic starter list of who is in their camps." It also allows the campaigns and other marketers to entice those loyal followers to download apps encouraging them to solicit the support of Facebook friends targeted by the campaign.
"It's a great way to get ambassadors for their cause—passively," says Donnelly, "which is a good way to go."
Email and Mobile Missteps
The targeted messaging enabled by the voter databases can be more effective, but that depends on how the candidates structure the messages and position the content, says Loren McDonald, vice president of industry relations at Silverpop, a digital marketing technology provider based in Atlanta.
McDonald has been analyzing emails from both the Obama and Romney campaigns and points out ways both candidates could be stepping on their own marketing toes.
For example, both campaigns are going against email marketing best practices and are not consistently putting well-recognized names in the "From" line, such as Vice President Joe Biden pitching for Obama, or McCain for Romney. Instead, some emails come from the campaigns' communication directors, while others come from a local or state party leader.
"A voter who does not recognize those names could just as easily not open the emails or just delete them," McDonald says. "They need to stick with recognized, trusted brand names."