Politics in Social Media

Where I live (British Columbia, Canada) it is that time again. The silly season, when my door, my phone, my mailbox, my email and, now, my social media has the face of some politician saying, “Vote for Me!”. It’s OK though. I am a bit of a political junkie, so I follow all of it with some gusto. What bothers me, however, is that pretty well every party in the field and every politician in it, is doing their Social Media wrong. They, like so many businesses, miss the “Social” and focus on the “Media”. I find this odd. When is the last time you saw a politician go to a social function and just stand in the middle of the room, with a sign above his or her head, that said “Vote for Me!”? Never, right? Well, that’s what they are all doing.

They are starting to pop up like spring wild flowers. @ElectMe Twitter accounts. Facebook pages that sport the name “Elect So-and-So for This Place”. Streams full of promises, platforms and pandering, but very, very, few conversations with the unconverted.

Be Prepared for the Conversation

I have actually seen where one party was deleting posts that pointed out that party’s mistakes or was an opposite opinion, in an attempt to “moderate” the conversation. They even posted, 4 times, links to their Social Media policy, to emphasizes the point. Needless to say, that just makes matter worse.

Unlike traditional media, you cannot control the conversation. It’s not a sign that you replace when it gets defaced, or a flyer that layout your platform without the worry of having to answer questions about the content. Here, in the Social Media sphere, if you out it out there, you had better be ready to talk about it.

Not Your Granddad’s Media

Some in the political landscape understand there is power in reach with Social Media. In Rapid City, South Dakota, a young political upstart decided to take on that City’s two-term Mayor in the 2011 City election. While the incumbent spent $40,000 in traditional media, the rookie spent $3,000 on target Facebook ads, pointed at young voters, public servants, labour unions, seniors; and won. He engaged people where they were, speaking directly to them about their concerns and then continued that conversation after the election was over.

Think Beyond

If there was ever something that Social Media was designed for, it’s politics. If you follow hashtags like #bcpoli, you would see how passionate people are about their politics. So why have something that is only focused on getting to Election Day? If those in the political arena thought like business people, then they would look at an election campaign like a new product campaign. A chance to have maximum focus and eyeballs on your brand, as part of a launch, to build new followers and new brand advocates. Then, when it is over, carry on that interest and engagement, hopefully to the next election.

What is frustrating about the Election focused Twitter and Facebook accounts is the fact that the accounts have a shelf life that lasts as long as the final vote is counted, at which point they are about as useful as sticking your thumb out on a deserted road…..in the desert….in the dark.

Developing a long-term strategy for your Social Media, that goes beyond Election Day and into the days that really count. Here are a few things that politicians can do to build a successful Social Media environment:

  1. Create accounts that match. Having a Twitter account that says “@YouNameHere” and an FB account that says “facebook.com/YourNameHere” created name recognition
  2. Launch regular Twitter chats. Build a following and a conversation around your own Hashtag and a local political one.
  3. Connect with the Social Poli connectors, people that speak on or around politics in the Social Media sphere on a regular basis.
  4. Develop a targeted Social Media ad campaign that will reach specific demographics
  5. Prepare a post election strategy for your Social Media, which will allow you to carry on the conversation after the election and into the next.

What is key to a successful political Social Media strategy is the engagement online. Don’t be the person standing in the middle of the room, saying nothing, with your Vote for Me sign.

Sean Smith

Sean is Managing Partner in ThatSocialMediaGuy.com, a Social Media consulting company based in Campbell River, BC. Sean has almost 20 years of experience in the IT industry, from a HelpDesk Manager to business owner. Sean has been active on Social Media platforms, since joining LinkedIn in 2005. Since then he has consulted on the development of Social Media strategies for a wide variety of businesses, from retail to tourism, instructed at workshops, been a guest and keynote speaker at various conferences, has been working as the tech/start-up author for Steamfeed.com and has recently become the Editor of the Social Media Camp Blog.

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