- Easy to use
- Easily scalable
- Intuitive interface
- Both citizens and politicians can easily join the platform
- The challenge of leveraging a social network can’t be overstated
- Skimpy reporting and analytics
- Incumbents automatically on the platform, but have less control over their profiles
Founded in 2015 and launched in 2017, Advocate is a relatively new platform designed to connect politicians and voters. By providing electoral campaigns with a virtual space to connect with the public and functioning as a ‘modern online democracy engine’, Advocate aims ‘to simplify the complexities of politics’. In short, Advocate is a tool to help politicians running campaigns as well as citizens engaging in civic life.
Running a Campaign
Creating an Advocate campaign page takes only a few minutes and a valid email address. Once an account has been created, the platform requires a combination of the usual campaign-related information – details such as voting district, office, election day, campaign headquarters contact information, etc. Advocate then moves towards its social design by building a candidate profile for display to the public – including a photo, bio, and an ‘on the issues’ section where campaigns can directly connect with potential voters.
Campaigns can leverage Advocate’s network by connecting with others to obtain new followers. In this manner, Advocate lets new campaigns tap into already established political networks and lowers the difficulty of leveraging a social network. In the future, Advocate will recommend candidates and causes which align with those you already follow.
In addition to building an online following, Advocate brings political activity offline through Events. Campaigns can promote and circulate information on petitions, protests, and group meetings, raise money within the platform, maintain public profile page, add team members to manage the page to empower supporters and promote grassroots action. Altogether, the Advocate platform provides politicians with a modern yet simple outreach tool capable of facilitating organizing efforts.
The Advocate platform allows public involvement by letting voters become users as well. Following a candidate shows their Advocate posts and posts across other social media like Facebook and Twitter. Notifications update users on campaign Events in their network and make involvement simple – linking directly to the page of an announced Event and providing an address and date, for example. Advocate provides users with information on the voting process, too. Important information regarding state rules and regulations on voting is attached to campaigns affected by them, notifying users of vital voter registration deadlines.
On top of the simplistic design, Advocate also integrates gamification features to make use intuitive and enjoyable. User activity is tracked through a national ranking. Based on actions taken and user interaction level, Advocate rewards user activity through points that increase users’ national rankings. Furthermore, this gamification extends offline; attending events in real life, such as a rally, also adds points. Advocate plans to roll out programs in 2018 for most the engaged on its platform. On the campaign level, individual leaderboards allow candidates and causes to offer rewards to their most engaged.
Advocate aggregates incumbents, while challengers must create their own campaign page. However, challenger pages are “clean slates,” which helps equalize their power on the platform. In 2018, key races feature if person puts in address automatically lets you know races and challengers
Advocate is a free to use service for both campaigns and individual citizens. This makes it attractive for campaigns of all sizes, though larger campaigns will benefit more from leveraging social platforms. If you fundraise through advocate, there is a modest 3% processing fee.
Advocate’s easy to use layout and beneficial features for both campaigns and voters make it attractive as a so-called ‘modern online democracy engine’. Alongside its free price, the platform’s inclusion of outreach and organizing services make it a highly flexible tool. Despite these services, however, the difficulty of leveraging social media must be stated. Translating engagement efforts into measurable results can be challenging for even well-staffed and well-funded campaigns.
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