In a world where the public craves information in real-time, social media has become a prime source for timely news and information. One could argue that social media is developing into the voice of America. In fact, at the end of 2011, Facebook had 133 million US users, and Twitter had 24 million US users; these users range in age from 13-102, with every state and every social class represented. That’s why, in the world of politics, it is essential for successful political campaigns to integrate social media into their marketing plans. Not only does social media provide politicians easy access to different demographics but also the opportunity to interact and engage with them.
Social media is becoming a huge asset to politicians, giving them a way to unobtrusively communicate and interact with potential voters from across the nation. When communicating with voters, direct mail and email lists are often seen as SPAM. But, social media users who voluntarily follow you want to see what you have to say and will pay attention to your posts. In addition, social media is an easy way to get a lot of information to your followers quickly. News, crisis communication, articles and campaign updates can be sent to voters within seconds when using social media, all while allowing them the opportunity to respond and feel involved.
Because social media is becoming increasingly more important in the race to the office, here are 10 tips to help politicians digitally connect before Election Day:
1. Create a social media strategy.
The social media strategy is there to enhance your marketing strategy and should be aligned with your already established goals. The strategy should include attainable goals and a timeline that works with your campaign. Your goals should include ways that you can measure success and milestones, such as a certain number of interactions in a quarter or X% increase in traffic to your website. It’s important to layout what you are trying to accomplish, so you can refer back to it if you are feeling off track.
2. Be active on popular social media sites.
Get involved on sites like Twitter, Facebook and YouTube! Tell your story across multiple platforms; interact with your voters and share where you stand on the issues online. These sites also help you stay connected with people you meet on the campaign trail and it makes them feel like they can follow you the whole way, no matter where it is you stop. These mediums not only let you share your opinions, but lets the people have a voice too, embrace it.
3. Interact with followers.
Being where your voters are online is important, but interacting with them can make all the difference in the world. The ability to communicate and connect with followers from across the nation creates millions more touch points then you would be able to get just campaigning city to city. Be sure to send a few tweets a day about what you are doing, how your ideas would affect current trends and good news articles you care about. This medium gives you the opportunity to ask voters’ opinions on the issues and share your thoughts. Also,responding to them will make a difference; don’t forget to reply!
Let your Facebook account be an information center for those who want to learn more about you. You will not only showcase information about your campaign, but also those who support it. Social verification, when a new visitor sees others opinions and not just yours, is important to conversion and helps to create new supporters out of undecided voters.
4. Make your social media sites a portal to your official website.
Linking your official website with your social media accounts is a great way to increase website traffic. Be sure to put your official website in the info section of your profiles, since this section is generally easy to access. Once voters are on your site, make sure there are links to all of your social media accounts as well. If they came to your website from Facebook, they are probably interested in checking out your other accounts, too. Including a tab full of links is an easy way to encourage voters to read your blog, follow your Twitter account or watch your latest YouTube video.
5. Crowdsource, use social media as a research tool.
If you want the support of voters, be sure to know what they want and what they are passionate about. Social media sites are the go-to place to discover current trends around the world, issues that voters are concerned about and what they want changed. Understanding voters across the country is an important part of maintaining current supporters, as well as gaining new ones.
6. Share your campaign.
Stay connected with voters during your campaign tour through your social media accounts. Sharing your experience with the public is a good way for them to feel connected to you and makes you appear more accessible. Using Flickr, Instagram and LinkedIn are just a few of the ways you can post photos, share stories and reconnect with people you meet at every event. It also creates visual campaign trail that voters can follow anytime.
7. Convert negative comments — don’t delete them!
It is very important to respond to negative comments; deleting them or ignoring important issues will only make the problem worse. Negative posts can be used as an opportunity to explain your opinion and inform voters where you stand with specific issues. Most negative feedback on debates or issues can be easily addressed, but negative personal comments can be difficult to respond to. Just remember that the personal attacks don’t always have to be addressed. Leaving these comments on your account encourages conversation from supporters, creating great interaction among voters that can help turn a potential voter into a supporter. Be sure that all comments are responded to; If an undecided voter is interacting with you, it is essential to communicate with him or her to try and gain their support. You don’t want to lose votes over unanswered Facebook comments!
8. Use hashtags to initiate conversations.
When tweeting about your most recent campaign happenings, be sure to include hashtags. They are a great addition to any social media campaign because they create an easy for a topic to go viral. Recently, the Invisible Children campaign used the #stopkony2012 and #kony2012 hashtags to promote the downfall of a war leader in Uganda, making the political subject well known around the world. Hashtags are useful because anyone can promote or create them and they establish an easy way to build a community around an opinion or topic and then allow it to be shared easily.
Hashtags can also be used to monitor your campaign- if you search the hashtag in the Twitter search engine, you can see who is talking about it. This a good tool to use to gain insight on your voters and to communicate or respond to them.
9. Make yourself available.
Bringing digital social elements into traditional events can really enhance the event’s reach and success. Integrating social media into your campaign allows for interaction and collaboration across the nation, without the need for everyone to be in one room. President Obama has held two interactive town hall meetings on LinkedIn and Twitter during his presidency by allotting a few hours to make himself available on the sites and answering questions that were posted. This is a great way to communicate with voters that wouldn’t typically have access to press conferences or town hall meetings. Hangout sessions on Google+, is another great opportunity to connect with voters, since it would work the same way as an interactive town hall meeting. Using social media to interact with the public is a great way to give back to your supporters, while providing them with your actual time and answering questions about topics that are important to them.
10. Humanize your campaign.
Share your opinions and stands on issues with out needing to be filtered through the media. If there is a controversy, utilize social media to defend yourself to the public by sharing your thoughts on the issue or explaining the situation.
Let the public get to know you and get personal by sharing some information about yourself that will make you relatable. Be careful though and take a lesson from Weiner on what not to do.
Whether running for class president or president of the United states, it’s important to make your campaign as personal as possible, while still maintaining a professional persona. Since it’s hard to shake hands and speak one-on-one with everyone you will be representing, be sure to take advantage of these free social media platforms that help you connect with a large number of people on a much more personal level. You never know, answering one question may be all it takes to turn a large number of undecided voters into proud supports of your campaign!