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if Republicans are going to start targeting online, I start with Facebook

Facebook is the one social medium that allows you to specifically target individuals that are members of certain groups and demographics (like Gen-Y, women and hispanics). So, if Republicans are going to start targeting online, I start with Facebook. (In contrast to say, cookie targeting.)

It’s not enough to just post and pray to reach these groups. The key is translating an interaction into data about who it is that is interacting. Petitions are great for this purpose. Give the Facebook fans a call to action: “Sign this petition and tell Obama we need a long-term fix to the debt ceiling.” and link the rhetoric to a web page.

The web page will have the whole petition and required fields for people to enter their first name, last name, email and zip code. The web page is the funnel for all the engaged user data. Now we have an idea who engaged…sort of.

The next step is to follow up and test. Follow up by sending all the people who signed the petition a brief questionnaire. This is where you can ask people to give their gender and age and ask if they would like to join a coalition representing women, students, young-professionals or hispanic communities.

Granted only a fraction of people will respond, but those who do are likely the ones with the most interest in being online advocates for the cause anyway. As for everyone else who did not respond to the questionnaire, it doesn’t matter. You now know where to find them.

At this point you’ve started to generate some idea about who your audience is, so now it’s time to start testing messaging via email. Segment out the different universes and track open-rates of different subject lines and click-through-rates of varied messaging hyperlinked to web content.

Based on the results of the emails’ open-rates, click-throughs and feedback, the message can start to be tailored.

Now that the different interest groups’ email universes have been established, getting the message out can also be augmented by emailing those coalition thought-leaders with pre-populated tweets, emails and Facebook posts.

Also using the feedback gained from the petitions and email tests, start testing the messaging that has been the most clicked on in emails on Facebook and Twitter. When the message is posted, ask the audience a question and turn them in to the focus group (with a #hashtag on Twitter of course so that you can track responses) and again, promote the post to targeted demographics on Facebook.

Then rinse and repeat the whole process - petition, email, ask questions, target, petition. I’d throw some infographics in there for good measure. They are excellent for stoking engagement.

Christy Lewis is a digital strategist and served as the Digital Director for the Scott Brown for U.S. Senate campaign.