Tips for Using Social Media in Political Campaigns - dummies

Tips for Using Social Media in Political Campaigns

By Dan Gookin

Without a doubt, a social media presence during a political campaign helps increase your exposure to the voters. The big question is social media’s relevance in a small race for local office: Will it affect the outcome?

The good news is that social media is well-known and incurs only time as an expense. It costs nothing to set up accounts on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and similar sites. After you have an account and have populated it with interesting material, place your social media contact details in your marketing material.

The key to attracting visitors to your social media account is to generate new material. For example, four posts per day to Facebook would be required to match the pace at which most people access the site. Multiple daily tweets about your campaign are necessary. The occasional video and campaign photo upload also help. The more active you are, the more successful the social media campaign becomes.

  • If you plan to set up advertising on Facebook, you must start early. Facebook requires a verification process that can take weeks to complete. Details may change later, but at the time this book goes to press, you must provide proof of who you are and a physical address before you can run a political advertisement on Facebook.
  • Social media advertising is relatively inexpensive, though whether it’s effective for a local race is unknown.
  • Always be positive online. Engage with people, but leave it up to your supporters to do battle with the online trolls.
  • Unless you already have a campaign website available, or you can get one done quickly and inexpensively, it’s not recommended. Campaign websites lack the expediency of social media. To best connect with the voter, use Twitter, Facebook, and other sites, which the public checks with far more frequency than a campaign website.
  • Videos are a great way to communicate with the voter. Make them short and direct. If you have a volunteer who knows video production and can assist you, all the better.
  • You may find that social media is a good tool for your fans but has little effect in convincing others to support you.
  • Don’t bother comparing Facebook likes between your own site and an opponent’s. Likes come from anywhere, including your relatives, friends, co-workers, and others who live outside the district and cannot vote in your election.

Do-it-yourself social media

Supporters and volunteers can help you do a lot for your campaign, but for a local-office election, you should be the one generating tweets, social media postings, or podcasts.

You can enlist your volunteers to like, share, and comment on the posts.

Do not engage the social media trolls

It’s difficult to sit back while some jerk attacks you online. You may not even know him. Though such a person is soulless, they have a purpose: to entice you to anger. Upon success, they share your comments with their friends, gloating over their success at having irked a candidate for public office.

Avoid at all costs engaging anyone you don’t know in an online debate. Your best — and only — response must be, “I would enjoy speaking with you about this issue. Please contact me so that we can sit down and chat.” Offer your phone number or email address. And don’t worry: They won’t call you, because a discussion isn’t their goal. Beware the trolls.

Don’t bother trying to figure out the motives of an Internet troll. They thrive during campaign season, hiding under a blanket of anonymity, eager to see a candidate take a misstep. The temptation to engage them is great, but only a fool would fall into their traps.

To avoid the Internet troll, as well as the usual idiots who support your opponent or just hate you for whatever reason, follow this advice:

Stay the hell offline during the campaign. This approach is probably best. Yes, it’s difficult to wean yourself from the social network teat. If you can stay online but not engage anyone, the results work out positively for you.

Stick to your own issues on Facebook and Twitter. If you must use social media during the campaign, do so on your own terms. Make your own posts. Reply to legitimate questions. Do not engage the trolls.

Respond to attacks with facts incidentally presented. If you must, ensure that when you address an issue, you do so with facts, such as names, dates, and so on. The goal is to respond only once; never get into a conversation with an anonymous online jerk who has no interest in promoting your campaign.

Let your volunteers get into the mud. A great way to put your volunteer army to work is to let them wrestle with the pigs. Have them go at it, attack, rebut, sling the mud. Their interaction will help your bruised ego as well as disengage you from direct combat.

Cover campaign announcements and events on social media

You might not do a formal announcement, but if you do, ensure that you have a campaign presence before you do. You need not have all your material ready, but you must have a website, a few social media sites, a phone number, and an email address.

Setting up an announcement event works best in the movies, where extras are paid to wear silly hats, wave banners, cheer on cue, and dish up a healthy slice of Americana. In the real world, an announcement event is dicey.

If you must stage an announcement event, ensure that a significant crowd shows up. Inform the press that you plan on a big crowd and they might attend as well. Take plenty of photos for your campaign material. Live-stream the announcement to social media, and record it later for your website or YouTube.

If you can’t guarantee a crowd, don’t do an announcement event.

Ensure that you cover any visits to local groups or organizations (and definitely any campaign speeches you give) on your social media. You probably don’t want to live-stream every speech, especially if you repeat yourself on the campaign trail. Do include photos or video snippets of anything that puts you in your best light.