The Online Underdog
How Citizen Journalism elected President Trump
As an Aussie, I love an underdog story. In the US election I think we witnessed two. Mid last year I finished marathoning ESPN’s 20 for 20 documentaries and started to be pulled into the presidential race. I’ve been watching closely for over a year now, interested in how the story would conclude, and shocked, not in the result, but how it unfolded. As a marketer, I was swept up in the story, the campaign and the players, especially the new Citizen Media, or Citizen Journalism Movement. As a engineer, I was engrossed in the numbers, the stats and the data unfolding online. What a show.
I watched a piece around a week before the election on how to win the Presidency, from a Washington insider. He said something that resonated with me and rings true for all successful marketing campaigns. You need to tick these 3 boxes well;
In marketing, often the one’s with more money and a better organisation can easily out play the message. But in the case of this election, two candidates spent less and started well behind in the organisation front, but delivered a message that aligned with movements waiting to happen. That alignment is the key to the success of every product, don’t educate people on what they should buy, align with what they want.
I’m and advocate of innovation and disruption; I posted last year on Facebook I would have loved to see two outliers contend the election, Bernie v. Trump. And watching Sanders brilliant trajectory in the primaries, I was shocked alongside his supporters when Clinton won the nomination. She had the better Organisation behind her, but with Trump, well, the day before the election, he was a 1% chance on the most respected polls worldwide.
Trump and his supporters succeeded against these odds and more. From a digital marketing and software vantage point, I was shocked at the things I saw during the race they overcame. For my research I had setup my feeds, searches and interest as moderate, with a like both or incognito position, to gather a raw as possible feed from both Clinton and Trump’s lenses. So here are my top 10 reasons I think this will go down as the greatest underdog story of my lifetime ;
How did the Trump supporters overcome all of this? To me it comes down to one thing, people power. Against these odds they found nimble ways to share Trumps message online. This amazed me as I watched advocacy build new pathways and cobble together connectivity of small blogs, social profiles and YouTube channels into juggernauts claiming tens to hundreds of millions of more eyeballs than the MSM. Citizen Journalism is now a major and recognised force online. If you are building a brand online, know your advocates are your greatest asset.
Ok some big digital rules – First if your message is organic, it resonates strongly, if it feels over produced it does not. While at often times raw, I’ve never seen a better execution of this than Trump’s campaign. This is the reason Correct The Record and other well funded pro Clinton outlets, even with the scales tipped in their favour, could not cut through the pro Trump advocacy. Second big no-no online – if you have a page or profile, leave all comments up and respond, good or bad, otherwise it looks like you are hiding from the truth. There are a few exceptions to this, for example if the user has posted language which is not aligned to your audience. Remember though, a blocked user is still promoting, louder, to more people, just not on your page. You’ve surrendered your chance to convince them otherwise.
I’m keen to watch the data unfold from here. Will those channels and challenges above balance out their platforms? Some have already. Will they change the historical data to reflect a non-bias position, if they can they likely will. My prediction, smart traffic and algorithms will drop the bias. At the same time, I credit American’s as far smarter than the stereotype, and together will find common ground.
As for the message – If Trump never entered politics and ruthlessly made more money (or lost it) – he would have likely gotten more egotistical and more arrogant until his hair took over his head 🙂 His twitter sure would have been an interesting ride… He inherits @POTUS soon! But this is a big pivot for Trump – essentially trumping any ego or competitive measuring sticks I imagine billionaires compare themselves with. He could leave the planet either folding his fortune, ruining the very definition “Trump”. Or as the optimist in me hopes, this political underdog will continue to shock everyone, tune his message and leave a legacy as one of the greats.