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The social soapbox: Democrats will embrace visual platforms at the 2016 Convention

Campaigns still largely use social media like they use television — by talking to the voters rather than with them.

Hillary Clinton campaigns in Las Vegas, June 19, 2016.
Hillary Clinton campaigns in Las Vegas, June 19, 2016.
Brad Zucroff

In 2008, a relatively unknown young U.S. senator running for president fundamentally changed political campaigns in this country. Barack Obama’s election in 2008, as the first social media president, marked the moment at which political campaigning began the significant shift from the television to the digital age.

Social media platforms have since become the modern-day soapbox, providing new channels through which candidates and parties engage with voters. For evidence of the digital revolution, just follow the money. In the 2012 election cycle, political campaigns spent $159 million on digital media. In 2016, that figure is expected to top $1 billion.

However, campaigns still largely use social media like they use television — by talking to the voters rather than with them. The 2016 Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia will change that in a way that should make every party, candidate and campaign manager sit up and take notice.

Barack Obama’s election in 2008, as the first social media president, marked the moment at which political campaigning began the significant shift from the television to the digital age.

This year, the Democratic National Convention will bring supporters into the conversation and tell the story of this historic event through the eyes of the attendees. Understanding that communication in this digital age is becoming increasingly visual, the convention will take the images captured by attendees and connect those images to other relevant information that supporters may be on the lookout for.

Layering in this information and making all of these images "intelligent" will transform each image into an opportunity to engage supporters beyond the convention hall and lead them to information and action like never before. What’s more, the convention will track the performance of each image, and use that data to guide decisions about messaging.

To do this, the convention will partner with Curalate, a marketing technology company that works with leading brands, as the convention understands the power this technology can provide to its platform and audience. The most innovative consumer brands in the world understand that discovery of their products increasingly happens visually through images and videos. The same is becoming true of how voters consume information about political parties and campaigns as visual platforms begin to dominate social media.

While it’s highly likely that the dominant digital platform in the 2020 presidential election is still in the wireframing stage, you can bet that it will be based on visual content.

Instagram didn’t even exist when President Obama took office — now it has half a billion users, up more than 600 percent since 2012. Snapchat currently boasts 150 million daily users and 10 billion videos viewed every day. And while it’s highly likely that the dominant digital platform in the 2020 presidential election is still in the wireframing stage, you can bet that it’ll be based on visual content.

In 2016, voters will discover information about candidates and parties online through imagery to a greater extent than ever before. By using the latest technology and data available to consumer brands, the Democratic National Convention will be the most digitally engaged political event in history, and will demonstrate its commitment to innovation and to creating more compelling experiences for supporters.

By taking full advantage of technology partners like Curalate, the convention will reach more people with more compelling, relevant content, and will transform a fleeting moment of discovery — when a person sees an image — into an opportunity, offering them more information and engaging them, welcoming them to join the whole country in the biggest conversation of the year.


Andrew Binns is the chief innovation officer of the 2016 Democratic National Convention, which will be held July 25-28 in Philadelphia. Reach him @binns.

Apu Gupta is the co-founder and CEO of Curalate, a leading marketing technology company and official technology provider to the 2016 Democratic National Convention. Reach him @apugupta.

This article originally appeared on Recode.net.

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