Hawaii.  That is
what’s been on our minds the past
few weeks as we worked hard to finish out this election season.  Hawaii is one of the prizes at the end of the
election cycle that our team looks forward to, regardless of election outcomes.  But with a special election in California
next year an increasing likelihood, there won’t be much time before the next
cycle is upon us.

So, we are now setting our focus on increasing the overall
effectiveness of our clients’ campaigns, which includes building and mobilizing
advocacy through the use of digital grassroots techniques. Too often the time
required to develop digital grassroots advocacy is simply shortchanged by the
almost insanely time-compacted nature of traditional campaigning. 

Often, when it comes to digital grassroots advocacy, only a
few short months (or weeks even) are spent building a supporter base with even
less time available for mobilizing those advocates. What’s worse, without
additional funding left in most campaigns, advocates are often abandoned right
after election day.  This requires
building a supporter base from scratch again next year.  While we all know that each of these
advocates deserves a break from the communications and activities that comes
with the intensity of election season, it should not be a 6-18 month vacation.

We can only imagine how many campaigns this past cycle spent
generous sums to construct a great website, collect supporter information,
build a loyal Twitter following, and cultivate an engaged Facebook fan base
only to let them languish in the coming months. 
Whatever the number, even one campaign is too many.  It’s an appalling waste and it needs to stop.

The optimal approach is to build advocacy over the long
term.  The heat of election battle is the
wrong time to build advocacy, but it is the right time to mobilize the team of
advocates that you have built in the quiet months leading up to the
election.  Now, as members of your team,
these individuals are well educated on the issues, familiar with the debate and
actively engaged with each other.  This
team is a force that can quickly overcome the competition that waits too long
to bring their forces together.

We all know the famous Sun Tzu quote: ‘In peace prepare for
war, in war prepare for peace’. ‘Now’ is not only your time to plan a trip to
Hawaii (or even more exotic destinations you may choose), but is also your
opportunity to prepare for victory in the next election.

So, as you spend your time reading, relaxing, digging your
toes into the warm sand, contemplating your return to reality, consider what
you can be doing now to elevate your game. 
To frame your thinking, keep in mind these three steps to digital
advocacy leadership in the social media age: Listening, Learning and Engaging.

Step 1: Listening
– Your advocates already exist and many of them are active online.   An intelligent listening program will enable
you to better understand who they are and what they are saying about the
issues.  These programs are akin to focus
groups, but they place the entirety of the digital world at your disposal.

Step 2: Learning
– After listening for a while, over time you will begin to build a powerful
knowledge base of both your advocates and your detractors.  Use this understanding to better define and
deliver your message.  This learning
process will maximize the number of advocates you can pull onto your side of
the argument while minimizing the opposition. 
It will also allow you to better know the all-important messaging that
may sway those undecided voters come election day.

Step 3: Engaging
– Finally, take the wisdom and insights that you have gained by understanding
the online narrative and use it to your advantage.  Connect directly with those that naturally
fall into your camp, starting first with the most influential.  Leverage the inherent energy and enthusiasm
in these people to connect to their network of friends and colleagues.  Cycle back to step 1 to measure the impacts
of your efforts…you may be surprised to see how quickly the narrative can be

Oh, and we almost forgot about Step 4: Hawaii – Make your

As President of ID Media, a political Internet technology firm, Bryan Merica is passionate about the latest technologies that will shape political processes. As Founder of PWSMC, a social media consultancy, Paul Wittenberg focuses on new methods to utilize social technologies that enhance the capabilities of both campaigns and enterprises. In 2011, ID Media and PWSMC are introducing a comprehensive approach to social politics that will provide new channels to reach and engage voters.