Social Media in Political Campaigns
Political campaigns are all about connecting with voters on a personal level. As the traditional media landscape has shifted, new media has taken a larger role and is changing the way we communicate. Candidates who embrace social media are winning elections and connecting with their constituents on a personal level unheard of a decade ago.
The first campaign to prove the value of political social media was President Obama’s in 2008. He showed how a candidate could tap into the power of social media, connect with voters on a major scale and turn the tables on traditional candidates. Used correctly, a political social media campaign can run for a fraction of the cost of a mainstream media campaign while directly connecting you to voters.
Social media provides the opportunity to grow your following and get your message out to the public. However, it’s a different approach than mainstream media practices. Here are five things to consider that can help you leverage social media in your campaign:
1. Share your vision. Let followers see behind the scenes.
Social media is best used to entertain, educate and inform your readers. By opening up your campaign, posting photos, and giving special recognition to loyal followers, voters feel directly connected to your campaign. Your readers are not looking for white papers or press releases. They want to know who you are and what you believe. One hundred words and a picture from a fundraiser about meeting and learning something from a constituent can go farther than a 1000-word article.
2. Remember that your audience is global.
Incorrect use of social media can end your political career. Just ask Anthony Weiner. Make sure your posts are upbeat and informative. Solicit feedback from your followers on policy questions. Avoid going negative. Don’t post when you are upset or angry. Make sure your campaign has a clearly developed social media strategy in place. Double-check your posts before they are sent. Understand that social media is a combination of personal contact and broadcast media.
3. Political Social Media allows immediate feedback. This can be a positive factor in a campaign
Social media can be used to immediately and decisively respond to an opponent’s misleading or incorrect statement. By responding immediately to a negative or misleading statement, any damage can be minimized.
4. Control and personalize your message to connect and engage voters.
New Media Platforms offer a unique ability to convey your message and beliefs to a large audience. Candidates effectively utilizing video and other mediums to connect on a more personal and engaging level will have greater connection with voters.
In the past, candidates and political parties were at the mercy of the main stream media. With new media such as YouTube and Facebook, you can control your image and the way you interact with voters. Candidates and elected officials that are active with video messages and blogs are seeing greatly improved results and, on occasion, even national attention that may have been previously unobtainable. Voters can now get their information from the source, you, instead of what is selected by traditional media outlets to report.
5. Social media is the primary way to connect with younger voters.
Young voters are getting their information from the Internet. By using social media, you can reach this important voting block. Political social media should be used to engage, inform, educate and communicate with voters. For many younger voters, social media is their introduction to politics. Educating and engaging with them can build a base among younger voters.
6. Be selective and be consistent.
There are hundreds of social media platforms on the net. Stick to the ones that are proven and vital. Understand their target audiences. Linkedin is populated by business professionals and may be a better place to fundraiser than Flickr for example. The most important aspect of political social media is to remain active. Disappearing from a site is bad practice. Make sure you respond promptly to questions or feedback from your followers. Remember, you are building an active network that you are asking to support your efforts.
Social media can transform a campaign. Understanding the dynamics, practices and etiquette of social media is a skill that can be learned. Political social media can help you to connect to voters on a personal level and that’s how to win an election.