Election Fever: 2016 Lessons Learned and 2018 Forecasts

The many twists of the 2016 presidential election taught plenty of valuable lessons to both major political parties. However, politicians aren't the only ones studying voter behavior. Advertisers are also paying attention.

To prepare for the 2018 midterm elections, which include those for most members of Congress, advertisers working with politicians must understand these four lessons to succeed:

The importance of targeting specific voter audiences

To reach voters, campaigns must personalize their advertising methods. Creating one ad or email message to send to an entire contact list won't win votes. Advertising across the board, including in the political sphere, must provide relevant messages to specific audience groups.

Campaigns must identify the targets they would like to reach, collect data, build personas and craft specific messages for each target, rather than sending a blanket email to everyone. Voters expect a more personalized experience.

The importance of engaging on social media

Social media is an important tool for politicians to use as more Americans gravitate to platforms like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn for information. Although most campaigns recognize social media is a necessary communications tool, they must also have social media managers who are mindful of what's posted. An ill-timed tweet or a distasteful Facebook meme can turn off some or all voters.

Adhere to new political advertising rules

Politicians face new advertising rules that encourage transparency. Facebook, for example, has created rules requiring disclaimers on political ads that appear on the site. The company changed its advertising policy after discovering and turning over to Congress more than 3,000 ads that were sold to Russian organizations trying to interfere with the 2016 presidential campaign.

The importance of making voters feel heard

Sixty percent of American voters believe their voices are not being heard in Washington, and only 29% of voters believe politicians actually listen to them, according to a 2016 survey by the Congressional Institute. That means it's important for campaigns to spend time talking with voters and providing real answers to tough questions.

When a constituent inspires a new policy or a change in policy, it's important for the voting base to know about it. Communications should show voters politicians not only listen to their concerns but will also take action on them.