Upcoming Chicago Mayoral Election: Digital and Social Campaign Tips

by Blagica Bottigliero

Like many, I’ll be keeping a close eye on whether or not Rahm Emanuel will keep his post as Mayor of Chicago. With so many candidates who may run, the primaries are going to be full of mud slinging, huffing, puffing, door knocking, fundraising and all other antics that go into Chicago’s unique election season.

Chicago is a big city. Huge. How huge? About 2.7 million. That’s big. So how does one use digital and social tools to reach 2.7 million people on an election year?

Here are some thought starters...

The Website

Goal #1 for the majority of candidates I’ve seen running for Alderman or Any Other Office is to raise money. 

->Visit to the homepage, BOOM!

->Click here to donate NOW!

Let’s back up. How about more details about why you are running, what makes you different and why Citizen X should give a damn.  Adding some fundraising links is still possible, but this is your chance to really spell out your platform.

Speaking of platform, let’s talk about Citizen X contacting you.  For the love that is all digital, please do not put a ‘contact me’ button on your site, expect to collect email addresses and NOT staff up enough to actually get back to people. Bring on interns. Bring on retired seniors. Bring on whomever you need to get the email, digest it, craft a response (even if it’s a THANKS or Let Us Get Back To You) and email the person who wrote the email in the first place.

Just like customer service expectations in the world of social, this is more paramount when it comes to a person taking the time to speak up, volunteer or advocate for an actual person.

Social Platforms


If you don’t have a Twitter handle, get one now. If you do have a Twitter handle, are you actually responding to people or are you having someone post one-way messages about how many handshakes you delivered today or what ground broke at the new condo development? Exactly.

Just like the suggested cadence of responding to emails, voters each have their own way of reaching out to you.  This isn’t up to you.  The key is to staff up in a way that can respond to as many folks as possible, hustling into the wee hours of the night to ensure that every voter, every undecided person feels like they are part of your virtual campaign staff.

It wouldn’t hurt to have a standing weekly Twitter chat (everyday at a certain time would be even better).  Your followers (hint: reporters would be all over this) would have the chance to ask you one on one questions and see how you respond.  I’m not saying you should go as far as conducting a reddit AMA (it worked for President Obama). Be honest, be yourself. Don’t be canned.

Use Twitter to live tweet your town halls and neighborhood visits.


Ok, set up a Facebook page.  Definitely use this medium to post updates like events, status of the campaign, things you need, etc. Don’t use Facebook as your website. Your website is your website. Your website is where you can receive campaign donations and collect email addresses/other information for voters.

Your website is the main event, Facebook is a traffic driver.

Speaking of traffic driver, you are raising a slew of campaign cash, so why not put some of that to good use and put together some custom audience buys on Facebook? This is where you’ll be able to target voters by zip code, gender, etc. 

Before you go out and unload thousands of dollars on messages, please think about what you are going to say. Instead of saying ‘Vote for Me Because the Other Person is Horrible’ how about putting together a series of ads that will appear to the same groups of people over time? These ads can layer in a story of what you are doing, who you are and why this person should cast a vote for you.

I know time is of the essence with the election, but you can’t shout at people to vote for you.  Connect with them.


One of the best ways to connect with anyone in today’s short and sweet visual world is Instagram. Take pictures of the campaign trails. Yes, upload a few pictures of you kissing babies, but also include pictures of your volunteers, the staff, the late nights, knocking on doors, voters, neighborhoods, etc. In other words, show Chicago. Show how you really know Chicago. 


I don’t care if it’s YouTube (instant Google SEO happy place) or Vimeo, use video.  Take videos of voters. Ask them what they are going through. See what they want. Post messages from supporters. Post their stories. 

Big Data

This can be its own blog post, but again, this writing represents a snippet of ideas. Do you know how much access you have to datasets? From census information to cars being towed, your campaign staff can sure use a heckuva lot of information to better inform your voters on a slew of things. Some ideas:

-See which lobbyists gave the most money to the city

-Understand what areas of the city are home to the most teachers and single people

-Track crime in real time

At the end of the day, we are all aware of the same rhetoric. It’s old. We can all see through it.  Instead, use the tools that are right in front of you and connect with the voter.