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Grading the GOP Presidential Candidates on Mobile

Back in the heady days of June 2011, I posted an analysis of Presidential candidates use of mobile in their campaigns.  My research showed that at that time only President Obama was making much of an effort in the mobile space.   With the end of the Republican primary in sight, and having recently done a deep dive on President Obama’s mobile optimization efforts, I figured it would be a good time to take a another look at how the remaining Republican candidates are using mobile.   This time out, I took a look at four primary criteria:

  • Does the campaign have a version of their main website optimized for mobile?
  • Does the candidate offer supporters a way to sign up for SMS updates?
  • Does the campaign have an official iPhone or Android application?

The results sort of speak for themselves.  Romney’s mobile optimized website is the only current mobile initiative by a Republican candidate.

Candidate Mobile Site Text Updates iPhone App Android App
Newt Gingrich No No No No
Ron Paul No No No No
Mitt Romney Yes No No No
Rick Santorum No No No No

Mobile Sites

While extremely simple, the Romney campaign actually has a pretty good mobile site.   The homepage design is clean and presents the user with obvious choices.  Visitors can click to get to the desktop site if they so choose.

home

The blog and video sections are easy to use on my iPhone, as are the Donate and Volunteer forms (screenshot below).

blog_screens

The Romney approach to mobile is an interesting contrast to the strategy taken by the Obama campaign.  Instead of trying to make his entire site work on mobile like Obama 2012, Romney takes a “greatest hits” approach and only displays content that is mission critical.  I personally prefer the Romney approach.  By recognizing the constraints of mobile design, Romney has created a better experience for users than the Obama campaign.   Judge for yourself.

mittvobama

In the end though, neither campaign’s mobile sites are extraordinary.  Both feel like an opportunity missed to me.

Thoughts on Apps and Text Messaging

The failure of the campaigns to build iPhone and Android applications didn’t surprise me.  Building an app is expensive and time consuming.  And given that most apps never gain traction, the ROI is questionable.  Building an app is an advanced tactic that you probably aren’t going to pursue until you have a bunch of other boxes checked off.

Given the hype around President Obama’s 2008 SMS strategy, which included announcing his VP pick via text message, I expected the Republicans to be actively recruiting text message subscribers.  If I had to guess, I would venture that the choice to not aggressively use text messaging comes down to money.  Obama’s text message about the Biden pick may have reached 3,000,000 people, but it is estimated to have cost the campaign over $1,000,000 to send.  Republicans involved in an expensive primary may have reached the conclusion that there are more financially prudent ways to keep in touch with supporters than text messaging.