Former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina -- one of America’s most prominent female business executives -- formally launched her campaign for president Monday morning. And given Fiorina’s background in the tech sector, one might expect that her campaign would have an impressive, well-thought-out digital roll-out.
To some degree, it did: Fiorina’s campaign used social media platforms to announce the campaign and showed an impressive use of emerging social platforms such as Periscope. But Team Fiorina also missed some key items that should be part of any campaign’s digital housekeeping.
Fiorina made Twitter a key part of her launch, posting a tweet early Monday morning that officially announced her candidacy while Fiorina herself appeared on ABC’s "Good Morning America." She also began using the hashtag #Carly2016 right away. As of 5 p.m. ET Monday, the hashtag had been mentioned just over 800 times on Twitter.
Fiorina launched her official campaign website early Monday as well, located at carlyforpresident.com. The site features many glossy photos of Fiorina at work and in conversations with citizens, but was otherwise slim on content and primarily focused on two items: getting supporters to sign up for the mailing list, and getting donations.
But in 2016, it’s not enough to just launch a website; any modern campaign must also strategically buy up other domain names solely for the purpose of grabbing them before one of their opponents does. And Fiorina’s team failed to purchase some obvious domains, including carlyfiorina.org and carlyfiorina.net, and so, potential voters who visit CarlyFiorina.org receive the following message, ostensibly from a Fiorina opponent: “Carly Fiorina failed to register this domain. So I’m using it to tell you how many people she laid off at Hewlett-Packard. It was this many:” What follows is a long tally of frowning emoticons, demonstrating the reported number of people laid off at Hewlett Packard while Fiorina was chief executive.
The Fiorina team did, however, show that they’re experimenting with emerging social platforms: Fiorina tweeted from her official account, @CarlyFiorina, that she’d be hosting a live chat on Monday afternoon using Periscope, the livestreaming app that lets any user stream live video on Twitter. The Periscope chat, which took place at 4 p.m. ET, lasted approximately half an hour and covered a wide range of voter-submitted questions on topics such as the economy, the Iraq war, education policy, layoffs that occurred during her time as chief executive of HP, and more.
On Facebook, which is still the world's most popular social networking site with over a billion users, Fiorina lags behind her competitors in audience size. Her official Facebook page had just 43,000 fans prior to her Monday morning announcement; as of Monday at 5 p.m., her page had grown slightly to just over 46,000 fans. Still, that’s far behind her opponents such as Hillary Clinton (796,000), Marco Rubio (838,000), Ted Cruz (1.2 million), Rand Paul (1.9 million), and Mike Huckabee (1.7 million).
Fiorina seems to be focusing her social media efforts primarily on Facebook and Twitter, and the occasional use of Periscope. However, her campaign missed an opportunity to truly engage in conversation with voters on these platforms on Monday. Nearly all of Fiorina's Monday posts on Facebook and Twitter promoted the Periscope chat. Instead, the Fiorina campaign could have better engaged with potential new voters by tweeting behind-the-scenes-photos from the launch, or tweeting about Fiorina's policy positions and reasons for running, or any number of other things that would have been more exciting that just promotional messages about a chat.
What will be next for Fiorina's digital campaign? So far, the former CEO does not have a presence on Snapchat, the rapidly-growing social messaging app that has become popular with millennials. Some of her GOP opponents, such as Sens. Marco Rubio and Rand Paul, have begun using Snapchat to engage a younger, more millennial audience of potential voters.
If Fiorina, who is less well known than some of her competitors, wants to build name recognition with voters who don't know her yet, she should consider branching out to other platforms pronto.