By Kim Hart - 01/22/10 11:00 AM EST
After President Barack Obama had such an impressive online showing in the 2008 election, Willington joined fellow Republican strategists Mindy Finn and Patrick Ruffini to form RebuildTheParty.com, which was focused on getting the GOP on the Internet track. As we reported Thursday, Brown's online push challenged the conventional wisdom that Democrats have the monopoly on Web-savvy campaigns.
Willington has known Brown since he was a state representative. He started working with the campaign when it launched in September.
“We immediately kicked off a strong social presence,” he said. “We knew it had to be an innovative campaign. There were, like, three of us in the office ... We thought, ‘We have to make ourselves look bigger than we are.’ ”
The campaign aggressively developed its presence on Facebook and Twitter and made heavy use of online ads and text messages.
Every time Martha Coakley did a radio interview, Willington sent a text message to supporters with the phone number for the radio station, urging voters to call in and ask questions.
“It was a great way to echo and magnify whatever you're pushing,” he said. “The phone number was embedded in the text, so there was no barrier for people.”
He helped develop an application for iPhones and BlackBerrys that sent lists of names and addresses directly to volunteers in the field. Using the cell phones' GPS features, the lists automatically updated for every neighborhood across the state.
The campaign live-streamed rallies and events to its 17,000 followers on Twitter.
“If everyone on Twitter is a highly connected person, they've got big megaphones everywhere,” he said. “After this campaign, I've realized that Twitter is like marijuana — both are gateways to much bigger things.”
Last week, Willington launched a "Voter Bomb" site, asking supporters to personally ensure their friends would show up at the polls and vote for Brown on Election Day. It ended up bringing in an additional 31,000 votes.
Brown's campaign spent about 10 percent of its media budget on online ads, breaking Republican Bob McDonnell’s record of 8 percent during his successful bid for Virginia's governor's mansion. (Willington said that's an early estimate and not a final number.)
About $233,000 went to Google alone, paying for search ads, Gmail ads, Google Apps, Google's "network blast" to all Massachusetts voters, and even Google Voice for the campaign's Election Day hotline.
The campaign's Google ads were seen by Massachusetts citizens 60 million times, according to Google spokesman Galen Panger. (There are only 6.5 million people in the commonwealth.)
The Internet was by no means the primary advertising vehicle. By comparison, the campaign spent $2.2 million on TV spots.
Nonetheless, Willington said campaign co-workers took the "Web guy" seriously, including him in every meeting and decision. That, he said, is what made the difference.
He plans to hit the road as soon as possible to visit other GOP campaign headquarters around the country for training sessions.
But first, he needs a little break offline. He arrived in Bermuda on Friday morning.