Politicians from all levels of government around the world are using social tools to raise support, connect with voters and spread their message.
Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign is an oft-cited example, but there are countless others, such as Calgary mayoral candidate Naheed Nenshi who, with less than 5% support, catapulted to 40% of the popular vote in a matter of days, due largely to savvy social media usage.
Here are five reasons why you should invest time and energy into social media.
1. The Amplify Effect
One of the first steps in political communications planning is identifying the campaign’s key messages. These messages are then sent through offline and digital channels, such as newsletters, door-knocking, townhall meetings and TV debates.
These efforts play a key role in creating the conversation and raising awareness in the minds of voters. But what happens to these messages in between the debates and the mail campaign? That’s where social enters the ecosystem.
As the model shows above, social media can act as the engagement bridge between planned communications. By interacting with voters and participating on Twitter and Facebook, you enable people to continue discussing and sharing your message.
In short, traditional media creates the conversations, while social media amplifies and sustains it.
2. Create a Personal Connection (100 people at a time)
Cory Booker, the mayor of Newark, NJ (population 280,000) has over 1.1 million Twitter followers. Known for his ambitious use of the social network, the mayor has managed to form a personal connection with tens of thousands of people.
Don't know. With building boom, must be looking up. Call 9737334311 for info RT @CoreNJFinest: how's job market for hvac technician in Nwk?— Cory Booker (@CoryBooker) April 3, 2012
While not all candidates may be able to use social media as extensively, Booker’s success story showcases one of Twitter and Facebook’s most powerful attributes: instant access.
People want to be heard and social media gives them the platform to voice their opinions and share the things that matter to them. When a politician reaches out to individuals directly, it is a public way of forming a connection with the public beyond just a handshake at a rally.
The advantage? Network effects and scale. Everyone else who is following you sees the same interaction, meaning these interactions have a far-wider and much more visible reach than what was previously possible.
3. Now Tools Make It Easier Than Ever
When social media was still relatively nascent, the amount of time it took to create, manage, design and propagate content was a major burden. For many understaffed campaigns, the challenge was daunting.
Significant progress has been made in recent years and the availability of quality tools have removed many of the challenges. Here are just a few of the tools we recommend to develop and manage a successful campaign, depending upon your scale and budget.
Use these tools to find out what people are talking about on social channels such as Twitter, Facebook, forums and blogs:
Content Publishing & Management
Coordinating and managing content across various mediums can be a challenge. These tools can help manage, schedule and organize content:
Analytics & Optimization
Measuring the effectiveness of your campaign is essential to long-term success. These tools enable you to gauge reactions and understand which campaign messages are relevant to your audience.
4. Develop an Ability to Respond
A month into a heated campaign, damaging accusations are leaked to the media about your politician’s past business dealings. Local bloggers have picked up on the story and the public is weighing in on comment boards, Twitter and forums.
It is in this scenario that having a social media presence is critical. At CMX Politics, we refer to this as your Ability to Respond (ATR). At critical moments (whether good or bad), it is essential to have established communications channels in place in order to be able to act quickly and efficiently.
The time to start a social media presence is not after a crisis, but before. Having a pre-established relationship with people can have a large impact on public perception and potentially minimize negative effects (or capitalize on positive events.)
The conversations are happening regardless of your participation, so ignoring that avenue is not the answer. Ask BP how that worked out for them.
By having your ATR established and a proper escalation and engagement policy in place, political campaigns can react appropriately within the channels that people are discussing them in.
5. It’s Not Only for Communications
When people think of social media, they typically think of it as primarily a communications tool. However, there are many valuable uses for social media beyond just broadcasting your message and engaging with people.
Social media generates a tremendous amount of data and information every day. By using social listening tools effectively, a campaign can glean a lot of pertinent information. Here are a few key indicators to analyze:
- Voter sentiment on key issues
- Geo-targeted demographic information
- Conversation cluster discovery
- Early warning trend spotting
Online donations is a rapidly growing field and online contributors are far more valuable than offline donors. The cumulative 5-year value of offline donor who started giving in 2004 is $86, whereas that value is $237 for donors acquired online. There are a variety of different tools you can use to fundraise; here is a great list to get you started.
GOTV (Get Out The Vote) Strategy
In the last general election in Canada, over 23% of the 7.5 million people who didn’t vote said they skipped the ballot box because they were “too busy”.
Building a strong social audience can play a big part in GOTV strategies, with social media playing a larger role in making sure that people vote. While traditional GOTV strategies such as phone-calling and canvassing are important, consistent messaging through established channels can have an impact on voter turnout.