We are thrilled and honored to announce that Keegan Goudiss, Bernie Sanders’ 2016 Digital Advertising Director & former Managing Partner at Revolution Messaging, is joining SpeechifAI as an advisor. Goudiss’ pioneering work in the use of social media for voter engagement and small-donor fundraising has helped shape the digital transformation of politics. In this guest piece, Goudiss shares his vision for the future of online campaigning and explains how SpeechifAI’s technology can help build grassroots movements and drive social change.
I don’t know about you, but I hadn’t been as happy as I was on November 7th in a long while. With the news of the election finally being called, there was a moment of great relief and celebration. Now that we have celebrated, it’s critical to focus our efforts on fighting the disinformation machine that deceived voters this cycle as it’s only going to keep growing. I’ll be blunt, advertising, and yes, that includes digital advertising, just doesn’t work as well as it used to in politics. I’ll never forget the first time I used Facebook ads as a political communications strategy. Way back in 2009, it was effortless to target Hill staffers, so we ran a campaign for a few hundred dollars to encourage staff to stop playing softball (it was right before summer recess) and tell their boss to pass health care reform. Now, it took a few more months before what became called Obamacare passed. Still, Facebook ads played a critical role in building the support necessary to get legislation passed that helped millions of people get health insurance. Since that moment, digital ads have been an essential tactic in a wide variety of campaigns, both that I managed and so much more that I had no role in. My experiences’ culmination led to having the honor to work with Bernie Sanders as he launched his first campaign for president in 2015. You may already be aware of this, but digital ads were critical in building his list quickly and making the case that he could be a credible candidate. His message resonated on Facebook and Twitter ads in ways never seen before.
For the last ten years, social media advertising has played a vital role in helping political and advocacy campaigns effectively engage with their audiences. 2020 has changed that. The digital edge will now go to those that re-imagine the tactics we use for digital fundraising and digital organizing. And with the money we raise, it will be those that don’t fall into the trap of dumping all their money into traditional ads that will be able to drive real change. No one in politics ever gets fired for recommending more money be spent on TV ads, but they should be if they aren’t also suggesting other ways to reach voters.
When I first learned about SpeechifAI, I was wowed by the product. It enables campaigns to create digital toolkits for supporters and helps them write social media posts, supported by an AI writing assistant optimized to the organization’s goals. They have a lot in store that will change how we all do digital organizing and digital fundraising. You may not know this, but many organizations currently use Google Docs to make recommendations to supporters on how to communicate on social media. And while it works, it takes a lot longer to set up, costing what is most precious in social media campaigns — time. I regret that I only started advising SpeechifAI at the very end of the 2020 campaign cycle. If more campaigns had been working with them sooner, we would have been able to combat disinformation online more effectively, especially when Facebook’s ad freeze went so badly. So many people tried to follow Facebook’s hastily-released policies in good faith, submitting creative in advance for the last week, only to have their ads not run when they needed them to the most. Biden’s campaign luckily had a top-notch team of digital organizers to work around this significant hurdle. Still, smaller campaigns were unprepared to shift their focus from paid to organic social.
Those that did use SpeechifAI this cycle saw fantastic results. An incredible 16,396 activists in 10 battleground states drove over 750 Million impressions. If I were setting this up as an ad campaign as I did in the past for my clients, those impressions would cost over $4 Million. Those that have worked in digital politics know that impressions are not as useful as actions. That’s why SpeechifAI tracks and optimizes towards conversions, providing an incredibly valuable feedback loop to digital organizers and fundraisers. With political ad bans on Facebook and Twitter, this platform becomes critical in any social media campaign’s success.
Advertising will always hold a special place in my heart, but in 2021 and beyond, it won’t be what makes the difference it once did. I’m thrilled to be joining SpeechifAI as an Advisor and working with them to innovate new ways to organize and build a movement online.
Written by: Keegan Goudiss