1 vote

Viral marketing and incentives

I wonder if it would be useful for the campaign to consider something that has worked very successfully for various startup websites*. I am not sure if this idea is FEC-compliant but it could work something like this:

  1. Every Ron Paul supporter who is interested in the program would sign up on ronpaul2012.com and get their own affiliate/referral link, e.g. ronpaul2012.com/?coldfact
  2. They could bitly that link and use it on their blogs, websites, forum footers, forum comments, emails to friends or wherever. The link would direct whoever clicks on it to the campaign home page while tracking who referred the visitor (via session or cookies, in case they come back another day)
  3. If the visitor then at some stage donates to the campaign, the referrer is then given some kind of bonus (e.g. .5% of the amount given). This is a one-off event and subsequent payments do not count.

The upsides of this:

  • Campaign supporters are incentivized to spread the message wherever they can, but hopefully in a constructive, useful and contextually-relevant manner (nobody will bother clicking through on your link if they hate everything you say. Or, for example, if you are on a woman-focused website, maybe you would address how Ron Paul's philosophy is beneficial to women in some specific way.
  • Because payback is contingent on pay-in there really is no way to "game this"; for example if someone becomes a millionaire using this system, they have made the campaign 100s of millions... I am sure that is acceptable!
  • The way it works you don't even have to be a supporter of Ron Paul! You could be someone solely in it for the money, or someone from another country, but that does not matter. In effect, it gives Paul and non-Paul fans alike an incentive to spread his message in an acceptable and convincing manner.

The downsides of this:

  • The campaign pays out a % of their income, but this could be considered marketing cost. The recipient referrers could then even plow the money back into the campaign if they want to, anyway, so maybe some money is not lost.
  • FEC Compliance? :)

*More on how dropbox did this, should you be interested: http://blog.hubspot.com/blog/tabid/6307/bid/5956/5-Viral-Mar... - point 4 is what I am talking about here.

Ron Paul and his message is an amazing product, why don't we make it go viral?

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Bump for discussion

I really enjoyed thinking this over, your out-of-the-box thinking is admirable.

I don't have the patience to research the FEC guidelines, but I suppose everyone who participates for profit would become a campaign employee.

On the one hand, Ron Paul's funding seems the LEAST of his problems. And it's disheartening how we couldn't get that money to translate into votes in 2008.

On the other hand, some people might be drawn to this scheme for the money-making opportunity, even if they are not Ron Paul fans or on the fence about him. In the course of working for him, they might come to see the value of voting for him.

winstonkirk has some valid concerns though

He has a point about the campaign being linked to "spammers" - the idea behind this was that people would craft their message in a way to convince others to consider Ron's message and possibly then donate, but it is also likely that people won't do this in such a constructive way; they will just play the numbers game, and, for instance, spam mail millions of people in the hope that some of them bite. So for some to bite, many (even 100s of thousands) may be annoyed.

So then that seems to remove campaigns direct involvement, but then without the campaign's data (to show the efficacy of different approaches by seeing what topics/links lead to site visits and then time spent on the site) and without the campaign's pay-in to get a pay-out incentive program, a great deal of this idea is gutted.

But maybe there is something to this - I mainly wanted to latch onto viral ideas that have propelled startups.

Maybe if the site did run this, only "vetted" supporters could get these referral links? (For instance, you have previously donated X amount - it is unlikely for some random internet user who wants to make a few bucks to drop a grand on the campaign, for example). This then would remove the aspect of non-Ron Paul supporters getting involved, but would pretty much eliminate the bulk spamming issue (true fans are unlikely to spam, and even if a few did, it is not open to mass abuse that the non-vetted approach is).

Thanks for the bump and follow-up as well - I am mainly just throwing ideas out that I think would be helpful to Ron... have not been too successful so far of convincing anyone that the ideas are worthwhile! (I guess I can keep on trying :))

I see.

It's hard to think of what vetting process might be sufficient, as there are always gamblers and con artists who would pay donations up front expecting huge returns from mega-spamming. Perhaps eligibility could be offered exclusively to longstanding C4L members.

I think creativity engenders creativity, and this is a good start. So I'm with you on this: I mainly wanted to latch onto viral ideas that have propelled startups.

Funny that you got marked down for that utterly non-controversial post. I would have liked to have seen what that person's objection was.

I'm marking you back up to zero. :)

Bad idea for a campaign. It

Bad idea for a campaign.

It took us months to break the notion that Ron Paul supporters were just a bunch of "Spam Bots" last time. To go ahead and create spambots, or even real people posting links for money, is a bad idea.

This is a campaign on ideas, ideals and morals, not a knock-off Viagra publicity stunt.

"Freedom suppressed and again regained bites with keener fangs than freedom never endangered." -- Cicero

yup, I get your point

but spamming doesn't appear incentivized by this if you are actually serious about promoting the ideas in a convincing way so that people will use your link.

Sure, as people already do with his regular link - as you are likely aware - people would run around posting a referral link, but this will hardly motivate people to donate. If RP supporters have any hope of their referral link working, they would have to be sure to package it appropriately to not come off as mindless spambots.

I think if money is a problem with this idea, the campaign could even do something as simple as a leader-board (placement decided by campaign contributions brought in via your links). This may disincentivize out-and-out Viagra like spammers, but may give something ardent Ron Paul fans would appreciate (some fame and recognition for the work they do).

I am not suggesting that all of this IS the best approach, I just wonder if there are ideas from other viral marketing approaches that we can leverage to spread the message. For instance, awarding "badges" to users who bring in people who sign up for the mailing list, or donate or whatever. This kind of stuff may appear silly on face value, but it has proven very useful in viral campaigns - all with very limited marketing costs. I mean I will likely continue to evangelize Ron Paul wherever I go for no reward, but others will likely do so more if their efforts get a badge or reward or some other sign of achievement or acknowledgement of their work.

So, to your point, how can we make the campaign and ideas more viral without getting a spambot backlash? Must be some ways...

The campaign can't really be

The campaign can't really be involved in this as it's too easy for people to join up and abuse the affiliation with the campaign. Even if we assume it would only be used by well meaning people, there are still enough people who could compromise the campaign if they were officially involved.

This idea, without pay or directly asking for donations, could work well enough if it were done by a third party grass roots site. The goal shouldn't be so much for the user to gain notoriety but to allow people to learn from the experiences of others. We often see topics on here like "how to get liberals" or "talking with neo-cons". A system that can quantify results and correlate topics/materials to other forums would be very helpful.

If you really want to do this, your best bet would be to create a system which can be used through any existing liberty oriented forum to give results feedback on the effectiveness of current efforts/materials. The site you create would essentially be a giant link forwarding site with organized statistics pages. The technical and user details obviously need to be better fleshed out, but, if done right, this would be a great tool to allow people who are already doing what you're talking about to increase their effectiveness.

"Freedom suppressed and again regained bites with keener fangs than freedom never endangered." -- Cicero

more good points

I think that the ultimate goal, though, would be to link such topics to campaign website visits and donations in particular.

So an incoming visit to the campaign site with referral code ?123 from topic (HTTP referrer) led to the visitor: signing up for a newsletter or donating to the campaign or whatever.

But maybe the approach, to disassociate the campaign from this tracking is - as you say - a 3rd party site (e.g. RonPaulMetrics), that the campaign feeds the referral results, stories that got the click-thrus, visitor outcomes back to, much in the same way the Money Bomb graph appears to work.

So this would approach would not have the campaign directly handing out referral codes or managing these (people would go elsewhere to sign up), nor would it show results, but it would at least both enable things such as a best referrer leader board and best topic measurement, via something objective like resulting money spent or newsletter subscription.

If the campaign doesn't at least enable this behind-the-scenes data feed, it would be hard to tell if a link that you posted and its related content (blog post, comments etc.) resulted in a visit to RonPaul2012.com and there would be no way to tell if it resulted (eventually or immediately) in a donation. This kind of information would be very valuable to the grassroots in terms of refining their messaging.

But, at the same time as this message refining, I would not discount the appeal of a 'shiny new badge', reputation symbol or leaderboards to incentivize supporters to work harder and smarter. Entire communities such as stackoverflow thrive because of apparently 'silly' tokens of virtual recognition. So I think the ideal combination is both to gather data that would support the best approach to convert people to Ron Paul and one that rewards users in some way for doing so.

You could have badges etc,

You could have badges etc, but that would be secondary to, or at most part of, evaluating effective peer-to-peer marketing techniques and materials. Recognition can work, and it should be a part, but the system will succeed or fail on the value added to user's existing efforts.

Figuring out if a visitor goes to the campaign site, or another site promoting the liberty message, would be easy. If the user clicks the link that takes them to the site, they went to the site. The link just routes them through your server. You could know where the user came from, where they went, who sent them and a few other possibilities depending on the sophistication of the system. You couldn't tell how much time the user spent on a site without s known second link on that site. You also couldn't know whether they donated without the campaign, but that is a next step to take after the proof of concept. Don't assume this would only be used to drive users to the campaign site. It would need the freedom to send them to any site. If the destination site included a second action link, then you could get even more info to evaluate effectiveness.

I think the current money bomb tickers are made directly by the campaign. I would be interested to find out how Nov 5th one was made, and how RonPaulGraphs worked. Never bothered to check. Giving a live feed of incoming users, then their progress through the site, which is where the click through and donation data would come from on the campaign's side, would be more difficult than a counter with names etc. You would have to prove the concept first. There would likely be privacy concerns.

"Freedom suppressed and again regained bites with keener fangs than freedom never endangered." -- Cicero

So the 3rd party site

could work like a bitly or .to (e.g. paul2012.to/1234 - then you would track where someone clicked from while redirecting them to the Paul campaign site. I think making the '1234' a user as opposed to a web link enables user-centred analysis, assuming where the user is coming from can be automatically obtained. Or potentially this could be 'double barrelled' with something like 1234.34 which would track both the user and the item of discussion (with these links generated in much the same way bitly does it, but tying it to a user).

I agree with you that the whole live feed of user donation data could be problematic, which is why I was thinking the campaign could run this directly...

In a way I fully agree that this should be grassroots driven, but it seems campaign involvement (on some level) would really answer the question to: what online grassroots efforts are really the most helpful in terms of both getting more Ron supporters and getting more money for the campaign?
Online data from link click-thrus would not answer this fully.... but it is a start...

That's exactly how the simple

That's exactly how the simple version would work, with names and content being included in the link. In almost all cases, you can get the address of the site users click from to get to your site. To start to understand this better you'll want to look up HTTP server logs. This isn't exactly what you would use if you wanted to get the information in real time, but it's a good starting place. One type of log, the referrer log, tracks where the user came from.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HTTP_referrer

Very few people would donate to the campaign immediately. Better to allow users to learn what works and what doesn't in attracting new people to the liberty message. If the system proves itself, then the campaign would probably be happy to help you raise more money for them.

"Freedom suppressed and again regained bites with keener fangs than freedom never endangered." -- Cicero