President Obama

Get Elected: Simple tips to use social media in a political campaign

First things first: Social media will not- on its own- get you elected. Social media is a tool. It can be an extremely effective tool, but social media will not do the work for you. YOU need to put in the effort, make the investment of time and energy, and learn how to use the tools as your disposal.

Secondly: You are not Obama. We often look to successful people and try to emulate them. While you can learn from the success of others, you define yourself and your own success in social media.  Don’t try to be like others. Be like you. For women, don’t try to be more like men in using social media. Women have unique stories and valuable voices that must be heard.

Consider: Why are you on social media? When people who have a message or goal enter the social environment they too often forget why people are there. On Facebook, for instance, the majority of users are there to connect with friends and family, NOT to receive political messages. We have great affinity for our family and friends, and far less affinity for politicians.

Using social to broadcast what you want to say rather than what people value will inhibit your campaign. Think instead of why people are in the space and craft your messages accordingly.

BENEFITS OF SOCIAL MEDIA IN A POLITICAL CAMPAIGN

Social media is a great way to communicate and engage.

Social media is capable of giving you much wider reach than you could possibly garner through real life interactions. Think of it as virtual door-knocking.

Social media is also an invitation to others to learn what your campaign is all about and what your values are, but it is just as valuable as a learning tool for you to understand the climate, and understand the values of the community.

A Word of Caution!

Social media is not going to make success for you. Invest in your success, and use social media as a tool towards your goals as part of a larger strategic campaign.

Please don’t use social media to broadcast…and then leave. How many of us would do this in real life: walk into a room, shout our our message and then walk out? If it wouldn’t fly in a social situation, it probably won’t fly on social media either.

Pretty please don’t assume you can randomly approach people openly online to solicit or enlist them. Be considerate of others online and whether or not they’ve demonstrated that interaction from you is welcome.

It may be tempting to hand social media to someone else- especially if you don’t feel entirely prepared to run your own digital campaign- but this can end up being problematic. Include your support network in the process: have your team help in creating an editorial calendar, sit down and brainstorm content types, sources, and even content itself, use social media scheduling tools like Hootsuite or Sprout Social to plot out your content. Your social media is YOU online. Entrusting someone else to be your voice in a political campaign is a decision worth serious consideration and planning.

Don’t take it personally. Behind a keyboard, people can say some pretty harsh things (they can also say a lot of wonderful things). While you are running a political campaign, it’s not about you. It’s about values and issues and office. It’s about serving the interest of the community.

WHAT TO DO

You do not HAVE to use social media. There are plenty of people who will be quick to tell you you HAVE TO, MUST use social media; however, weigh the investment against the benefit: if the majority of your voters do not use social media, it hardly makes sense for you make a hefty investment in your social media campaign. BUT, if you choose NOT to use it, know that your opposition will likely be benefiting from it, forcing you to work harder in other ways to communicate and get yourself out there.

If you currently have no social media: A great place to start is Twitter. Get connected to the community and see what other candidates are doing. Twitter is also an excellent place to connect with people you may not be able to reach otherwise. Use keywords and observe trends to understand what topics are important to your voters.

(Setting up a Twitter account is a fairly easy thing to do, but if you need guidance read Mashable’s Beginner’s Guide to Twitter)

Before launching your online campaign:

IMAGES (profile/cover/background pics/facebook photos).  Closely look at what your pictures communicate about you, and scan your uploaded images to see whether they are appropriate or not.

BIOS. They are formatted differently for each social channel, but be consistent across networks and concise about who you are.

OFFLINE. Provide a way of contacting offline. Whether it’s a phone number, email, or other method it’s a good idea to give people a way to engage with you out of the public eye.

PREPARE FOR NEGATIVITY ON SOCIAL MEDIA

Be prepared to respond in a timely manner. Note: ‘timely manner’ doesn’t mean ‘immediately’. Thoughtful wins over immediacy.

Take charge by shaping conversations, and steering them away from being arguments.

Don’t feed the trolls.

Be transparent

Avoid language that shames people for trying to interact with you.

Draw the line. If you are attacked or bullied it’s important to communicate that’s not appropriate, both for yourself and others who may witness the interaction. If someone persists in attacking you online you can attempt to take it offline, flag the media, and/or block the user from being able to have further interaction with you online.

Embrace it.

Own it.

And good luck.