Strengthening Your Electoral Game for the Next Season

Contributor: Martina Orlea

We are glad to announce that a new Tectonica’s project is in motion! We are working on the creation of a comprehensive knowledge centre accessible to as many progressive organisers and campaigners as possible to offer them the most valuable capacity-building resources, networks, and tools. For this amazing project, we are lucky to have Martina Orlea and Ellen Vanegas, two passionate and talented people that joined us this summer. As a teaser of what we are doing, we are excited to present our essential readings for the upcoming elections, carried out with the support of our intern Martina Orlea.

The way political operatives manage electoral campaigns has changed radically in the last 20 years. Social media has replaced town hall debates, and YouTube has replaced television. Even if both left and right-wing parties have used the Internet and social media, after the 2016 election of Donald Trump, it was clear that the right has learned how to use the Internet better. In this blog post, we are putting together some articles and books to inspire progressive campaigners in improving their Internet game. This is not an exhaustive list, but, from our expertise, it contains some essential readings for the upcoming elections.


Essential readings

Before detailing new innovations, there are a few canonical electoral works we'd like to recommend. The Political Campaign Desk is the political bible for any campaign manager. The book describes all components of a campaign in a textbook manner, including social media. It is easy to understand and search through, and suitable for any type of campaign (local, regional or national). Another essential is The Victory Lab, which explains how political sciences turned from a science of persuasion into a science of data. In this book, Sasha Issenberg takes the reader through the history of political campaign thought, explaining how voter micro-targeting appeared and why campaigns nowadays are investing millions of dollars in building professional data analytics teams.



The Political Brain tackles the subject of persuasion from a psychological perspective. This book uses psychology to explain why left-wing parties are not winning on the emotional battlefield. The main thesis of the book is that humans are not rational decision-makers, therefore trying to convince them with facts and figures, as the Democratic party has tried to do, will not win their vote. Elections are won in the marketplace of emotion and this book explains how parties can change their narrative to be competitive in that area.

However, persuasion shouldn't be deployed only during elections. This article from Politico explains why political parties should continue digital advertising between elections to win long-term converts. However, it is worth mentioning that we at Tectonica have some reservations regarding digital ads as a means for persuasion. The best way to run these digital campaigns for the next elections is through programmatic advertising, which enables users to create a very specific targeted audience, and works great with videos. It is already the main type of advertising used in business and, for sure, it will play a huge role in the elections in the upcoming years. Political digital managers need to understand what programmers can do, especially in areas such as geo-targeting and geofencing, to best apply it to their work.


TikTok and Pop politics

In terms of social media, TikTok is growing a new generation of political activists. TikTok is Shaping Politics. But How? tries to understand how Gen-Z is using TikTok for political purposes, and how they personalise political communications. Politicians need to find a way to communicate using TikTok without seeming too "politician-y". This CNN article also looks at how digital operatives have used TikTok to strengthen their GOTV efforts. YouTube and video content will also play an important role in upcoming elections. Extremist content has a higher reach on YouTube and a much higher probability of making people fall down rabbit holes. This article (How YouTube Radicalized Brazil) looks at how the YouTube algorithm functions taking Bolsonaro's election as a case study and how the far right learned to exploit it. However, video content comes with the risk of deep fakes, which challenges the most basic human belief "I'll believe it when I see it".

A completely new trend in content is live-streaming, used by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) successfully in 2020. The day AOC, a representative of pop politics, spent three hours and a half playing Among us on Twitch marked a revolution in political communication. AOC went to the voters' playing field, threw aside any politician's mask, and showed authenticity as no politician has done before. This article explains how AOC managed to use emerging technologies in her favour and why her authenticity was refreshing.

We still cannot be sure how electoral campaigns will look two years from now. However, it is clear that digital will continue to play a huge role, TikTok will be as important as Facebook was in 2008, and video will continue to be the most important type of content. However, there is much more to explore: technology is changing every day, and it should be the same way with how we campaign.