In a tumultuous U.S. pre-election season of name calling, tiny hands versus big walls, e-mail scandals — and an unprecedented amount of unfriending on Facebook — we felt the conversation about whom readers were voting for became unproductive, and overshadowed why they were voting.

As a news organisation, USA TODAY NETWORK’s  mission is to help communities connect, act, and thrive. And our defense of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution is why we are compelled to support every United States citizen to exercise that right.

We launched the #VotingBecause campaign to dive deeper and de-politicise voting by shifting focus from narratives on parties and candidates to a conversation about individual voter convictions.

We asked our community to tell us why they were voting via #VotingBecause and share it with the world, giving the election personal meaning. By encouraging positive participation and emphasising that there is no incorrect reason to vote, we gave a platform to our democracy on the foundation that there is no bad “Because.”

#VotingBecause provided ways for the community to share why they were voting via Web, print, and social media.
#VotingBecause provided ways for the community to share why they were voting via Web, print, and social media.

We distributed #VotingBecause cards, created a meme generator and microsite, and promoted the campaign in our print publications and at live events — giving people a voice.

Everyday Americans and celebrities participated with exciting results, such as, “#VotingBecause it is my duty” or “My mom will kill me if I don’t.” The campaign gave us a rare view into a spectrum of motivation, people’s personal stories, and opened up the national conversation in a non-polarising direction. 

Personal stories of why people voted created a positive spin on an otherwise negative election conversation.
Personal stories of why people voted created a positive spin on an otherwise negative election conversation.

The campaign also included advertising across local and national print publications, posters, celebrity outreach, live events, social media postings, a Twitter influencer campaign, Times Square out-of-home advertising, e-mail marketing, digital ads, video, search engine marketing, and advertising on USA TODAY College Buzz.  We acquired the following results from the initiative:

  • 102,947,904 digital impressions.
  • 1,976,505 clicks.
  • 1.92% call-to-action (CTA) exceeded benchmarks.
  • 48,355 USA TODAY College Buzz app ad impressions.
  • 1,185,717 pageviews.
  • 16,344 mentions with #VotingBecause social participation.
  • 144,968,793 social-reach potential through shares and re-shares.
  • 90.81% video completion rates.
  • 791,156 Twitter influencer organic impressions.
  • 125% increase in overall share of voice against competitors on Twitter for 7 days.

Post-election, with a new president and the success of this campaign, we are motivated now more than ever to engage people and encourage conversation. #VotingBecause as an initiative doesn’t have to end; it can evolve.

“Helping My Community Because,” “Giving My Family a Better Life Because,” and “Changing the World Because” can be the  ice-breakers, or self-actualisers, for people to continue to be inspired not just be citizens, but to be Americans. With the realisation that everyone has a reason why they feel the way they do and why they believe what they believe, the initiative can help people switch from saying “The truth is…” to “My truth is….”

Most importantly, the initiative opens a dialogue so we can better understand one another, talk to each other, and flex our rights of free speech to make the biggest, most positive impact we can ... just because.