ANALYSIS: Politicians have been adapting to the internet and in Election 2016, they have fully integrated the internet into every aspect of how they work
The effectiveness of the internet as a messaging platform became obvious by the time the election was over. Trump spent far less money than his opponent, bought far less television time and didn’t spend money on vast numbers of staff and volunteers. Instead he depended on raising support on the internet and in using the internet to get the word out.
Meanwhile, his opponent, Democrat Hillary Clinton, followed the traditional path of raising huge sums of money, buying television time and developing a vast ground force intended to get people out to the polls on Election Day. It didn’t work.
What did work for Trump was the internet. It took the place of television, radio and print advertising. The internet was able to provide the Trump organization a means of for gathering the faithful and turning out the vote.
Change in political campaigning
This was an important change in the way political campaigns had been conducted for decades and it could end up effectively reducing the demand for enormous amounts of campaign money-including cash that comes from the richest donors with axes to grind and Political Action Committees—the kind of money Bernie Sanders said he didn’t want.
This is not to suggest that money wasn’t a factor, but because much of Trump’s presidential campaign was self-funded his costs were kept under control. Clearly, despite the fact that Trump is a billionaire, he didn’t want to spend more of his own money than necessary. He approached the spending for his presidential campaign in much the same way that a business would approach a major marketing campaign that was based on the internet.
Trump’s approach to winning the presidential election is a new direction in American politics. By using the internet and especially social media, Trump was able to significantly improve the efficiency of delivering his message. This meant that he was able to specifically target his messages to his followers, and then depend on those followers to amplify the message at no cost or effort to him. It’s the sort of campaign that’s foreign to American politics, but which is based on the lessons learned in internet marketing.
If these lessons from the Trump campaign find their way into the broader political landscape, and they may, this could signal the end of complete dependence on big money in politics. In Trump’s case, the message didn’t rely on big money to reach voters.
Instead, it made creative use of the internet to step around some of the things that money can buy and instead turn the message into something that the voters saw as personal. This is something new in the political process and it worked.
Originally published on eWeek