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Is Hillary Clinton too big for mobile? Lack of challenge could limit engagement opportunities

While Hillary Clinton has surrounded herself with impressive mobile tools in support of her second historic run for the United States presidency, an unchallenging primary period could limit opportunities to take advantage of mobile's ability to drive real-time relevancy and urgency while building and engaging her supporter base. 

With the 2016 presidential election still 18 months away, Ms. Clinton already has set up the foundational elements including a mobile-optimized Web site and Facebook, Twitter and YouTube pages that will serve as key touch points during her campaign to become the first woman U.S. president. But being a household name as a former first lady, senator and secretary of state actually may prove a disadvantage in a political culture that needs an uphill battle to get creative on mobile.

?Her main challenge is going to be finding ways to deeply build and engage her supporter base over the course of what is likely to be an uncompetitive primary season,? said Dave Karpf, a professor in the School of Media and Public Affairs at George Washington University and the author of 'The Move-On Effect: The Unexpected Transformation of American Political Advocacy.'

?If she doesn't face a serious challenge in the primaries, then there just won't be much for her campaign to do over the course of several months in winter/spring 2016," he said. "You can't engage people on mobile platforms unless you have something to engage them around.? 

Showing that she is a leader in leveraging mobile channels, Ms. Clinton announced her candidacy through online video rather than a traditional press conference, shifting away from historical platforms to gain a more direct connection with her constituents. 

?It was a great mobile tactic, as the video can be easily seen and shared on mobile devices and through social media channels,? said Sean Gera, strategic analyst for marketing at CallFire, a Santa Monica, CA-based cloud-based voice and text communications platform. 

Campaign mix
Since losing the 2008 Democratic primary to Barack Obama in a bitter contest noteworthy for her opponent?s groundbreaking use of cost-effective social media and mobile strategies, Ms. Clinton?s social media presence reflects her grasp of the need to make social part of the campaign mix. 

Buttons on mobile Web home page.

Ms. Clinton's Facebook page includes official posts from her campaign with links to the Hillary for America Web site.

Interestingly, the feed includes both adoringly pro-Clinton commentary and harshly critical anti-Clinton commentary aimed not just at Ms. Clinton but at her husband, Bill, the former president.

In a move to engage voters emotionally, a Facebook timeline features a nostalgic look at Ms. Clinton?s rise through the Democratic Party?s ranks to become secretary of state, as well as her stint in the White House as first lady, with images and anecdotes culled from her career and college days.

The politician's YouTube channel contains numerous campaign-pertinent and just Clinton-related videos including the video that is on her campaign Web site homepage.

Noticeably, her social media presence, aside from her political action committee, is missing from Instagram, the mobile video-sharing site that has become the darling of commercial marketers.

?This could be a big miss,? said Ben Hordell, partner at DXagency, an Edgewater, NJ-based digital ad agency.  ?It will be interesting to monitor Hillary?s presence on Instagram, as it would be a valuable tool to hit a younger voting demographic.?

The Hillary for America Web site is the heartbeat of the campaign. Easy to navigate, its homepage abounds with calls to action to join, provide personal information, or donate in support of Ms. Clinton?s outreach to ?Everyday Americans.?

There is very little text. The language is direct, with short phrases. The homepage also includes a shareable video, an 11-word quote and more detailed ?Volunteer now? and ?Donate" sections to drive engagement.

Leveraging popularity on mobile.

?The ease of conversion is particularly noteworthy as they have minimized the number of steps it takes for email sign-up, volunteer sign-up and to contribute donations,? Mr. Hordell said.

?The fact that the campaign is looking for an email and a ZIP code right away is very telling in terms of what is to come," he said. "As the campaign progresses, I would anticipate the use of hyper-localized mobile media, email and text campaigns to drive supporters to local campaign tour events.?

Notwithstanding these strengths, Ms. Clinton will need to sharpen her strategy specifically targeted to mobile channels, rather than just leveraging digital tactics that play well on mobile. 

For instance, she has not yet unveiled an SMS strategy, three weeks after Sen. Ted Cruz, a Texas Republican, turned to SMS messaging to mobilize voters and raise money in the kickoff for his presidential run.

In the 2008 primaries and presidential elections, the one candidate who got SMS right became president: Mr. Obama. His Team Obama also won Mobile Marketer of the Year for 2008 from this publication.

During a speech at Liberty University, Mr. Cruz, a junior United States senator with conservative views, called on viewers watching via a live ABC News stream and students in the audience to text the words ?constitution? or ?imagine? to the number 33733 if they believed in his campaign.

?While Clinton has not unveiled her SMS strategy yet, we do expect to see SMS integrated into her existing mobile and social media strategies,? Mr.Gera said. 

Having leveraged SMS in past campaigns, Ms. Clinton even has her own dedicated short code ? a strategic move, given the issues that can come with using a shared short code. 

?It?s clear she has savvy mobile strategists working on her campaign,? Mr. Gera said.

SMS would work well for fundraising, given that email through which Ms. Clinton has traditionally raised money no longer carries the impact it once did. SMS would allow supporters to donate immediately through their mobile devices, which is a tactic that worked well for Mr. Obama in both his presidential runs.

Drawing board
During a non-election year, candidates are going back to the drawing board to look at all the different tools available. They have seen the success that mobile marketing has had in the private sector and are following the trend to boost the success of their political campaigns. 

Turning to Facebook to boost political chances.

In the months ahead, Ms. Clinton also is expected to use MMS to send real-time photo and video updates to her supporters to directly communicate with her core demographic in a personalized way. 

?I think we?ll see heavy use of micro-targeting from Clinton?s campaign as well, given the fact that her messages will need to be targeted to specific areas and population sectors,? Mr. Gera said.

Final Take
Michael Barris is staff reporter on Mobile Marketer, New York