Saturday, December 17, 2011

Using social media to get yourself elected

I have been asked to advise and help a colleague use social media get herself elected onto the board of a professional organization. I have to admit I have never done something quite like this before, but it is not dissimilar to the marketing I have done for the Virtual International Day of the Midwife and such like.

First step
If I was going to vote for someone in an election, I would want to:
  • know all the political stuff. In other words, what are the candidate's policies, philosophy and plans for the future?
  • see she reacts to current issues as they crop up;
  • interact with the candidate...ask her questions...learn more about her thinking. Some times it is a little scary talking to a famous person or political figure in the face-to-face environment, whereas it doesn't take much nerve to leave a question on Facebook;
  • get to know the candidate...not just on a professional level, but also get to know her as a person.
What can we learn from Barack Obama?
With these questions in mind, I have turned to Barack Obama for information on how he ran his extremely successful presidential campaign in  2008. Much has been written  about the way Barack Obama used social networking. Needless to say, he had staff to run his campaign as well as significant funding. The majority of us are involved in campaigns that are a lot less ambitious. However, the core of what Obama did was interact with people. He ran a two-way campaign...he didn't just push out information but he responded to people...and got involved with them in any way he could.

About social media for campaigning
So here are a few key messages about social media and campaigning, be it an election campaign, marketing a product, fund raising or promoting an event or idea.
  • Don't expect social media to make you instant fame and fortune (or votes). You have to put time and effort into making posts, comments, responding to people and generating conversations.
  • Social networking is about exactly that...being social. In effect what you are doing is building a community around your product. Keeping in mind the 1% rule...that only 1% people will actively engage with you online,  you've got your work cut out, which takes us back to the first point I made.
  • Use the technology that people are already using. There's no point in setting up a Twitter account if everyone you want to reach is on Facebook. At the same time, the more distributed you are, the more people you are likely to reach. 
  • Be consistent with your brand ie if you develop a logo or photo of yourself, use that on all your pages and sites so you have consistency and are easily recognised. 
  • Remember a large number of people still use email, as well as cell phones. So think how you can utilize email newsletters and texts to keep people up to date with what you're doing.
  • You need to think how you're going to continue after the campaign. Social networking is a long term option not just a quick fix for electioneering or selling a product. You will lose credibility with your supporters if you do not continue to engage with them, especially if they elected you into the position you were after.
Tips and tricks for campaigning

Having had a read around of blog posts such as The Barack Obama guide to social media marketing success by Rod Kirby and 50 social media tactics for non-profits by Chad Norman, as well as my own experience I have come up with a few ideas for the basic use of social media for campaigning.

  1. Set up a YouTube channel and post short videos introducing yourself and discussing your thoughts, policies and ideas. Make them no longer than a couple of minutes.  Not only do you introduce your ideas but you give voters the chance to see what you look and sound like. Invite questions and comments, and always respond them...maybe with another video.
  2. Set up a Facebook page. Use plenty of images because that is what catches the eye. Make sure you keep your wall up-to-date because that is what readers notice first. If you are running a campaign for a short period of time, post a comment or piece of information at least daily. Connect up with other Facebook pages that have similar interests and where your audience usually hangs out. Invite your voters to contribute to your page by asking questions and adding their own comment, but make sure you always respond. Run polls for example, to find out what the main issues are that voters wish you to address. Share information that your readers will be interested in. Connect your Facebook page to your cell phone so you can monitor the page when you are away from your computer.
  3. Set up a Twitter account. Devise a unique hashtag, such as #electme which you use every time you post a comment and encourage others to use it so you can follow what others say. Monitor what people are saying about you using tools such as Tweetdeck. Send out tweets at least four times a day and always answer comments or questions. Connect up with influential people in your area that already use Twitter.
  4. Create a blog. Facebook and Twitter are fine for short and sweet messages, but for longer, in-depth ponderings it is better to have a blog. This can save you money if you have a blog rather than a website. You can use various widgets to feed in your Twitter and Facebook posts (and visa versa). Publish a post at least three times a week. Make it relevant, easy to read, not too long and use lots of images.
  5. Connect with voters. When you can, meet up with followers face-to-face with activities such as tweet-ups to give people a chance to meet you. An alternative is virtual meetings with webinars using free meeting rooms such as Wiziq.
If you want to know more, just "Google" social media and marketing or browse around the Mashable website

What tips would you pass on for successful campaigning using social media, be it for an election, marketing or fund raising?

Image: 'Tweet.'


Sarah Stewart said...

Best practice guide for marketing with Facebook

Fiona Quigley said...

Great Blog post sarah. There is a real dearth of this type of practical information pulled together into once resource.

Have a happy Christmas.

Best wishes,

Sarah Stewart said...

Thank you, Fiona :)