Politics in Media: Social Media as a Catalyst for a Successful Campaign

By: Jessie Staley | jstaley@newzgroup.com

No one is blind to the impact and influence social media has on the political process. But how do parties and candidates adapt to an ever-changing environment? When there’s so many different influencers and narratives popping up, it can be difficult to control your media presence and public perception. The Oxford Handbook of Political Communication even features an article on “New Media and Political campaigns”, with discussion on the evolution of media influence. Even with constant changes and expansion of the social media universe, the show must go on! Here are some basic pointers for how you can sustain the scrutiny of the internet world during the race and boost your campaign exponentially through social media.

Step 1: Start strong and start early

It is not enough to develop your campaign’s voice and presence when you announce your candidacy. In order to get the coverage and support you’re looking for at your campaign announcement, you have to start early. Months ahead, you should have accounts on all the platforms: Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, and everything else. These accounts are the basis for your campaign’s “voice”.

This voice should be consistent, deliberate, and most importantly authentic.

A) Consistency

Don’t force your supporters into a position where they must discern your morality, make it clear and consistent. You are one person, so you should only have one voice. Before creating your accounts, work through each issue that you care about and that will come up during the race. Do your research beforehand. If you’re going to change your perspective on an issue, it’s better to change your mind before you’ve made a public statement about it. The perception of shaky ethics can kill a campaign. Make sure you know where you stand and that you can defend yourself with class and decorum.

B) Deliberate

During a political campaign, every post counts. Filler is, for all intents and purposes, not appreciated. Tell the people what they need to know about you and the issues your support. Anything they don’t need to know, don’t tell them. This seems obvious, but after being in the race for a while, candidates can get too comfortable with their support base and too lax with their posts and phrasing. This kind of nonchalant behavior is usually what sends candidates into making public apologies and staining their campaign from then on. All you need to do is make sure you mean what you say and that it’s important to your candidacy. Oh, and make sure to have your team look it over before posting. Typos are so not professional.

C) Authenticity

Constituents and potential voters can smell ‘fake’ personas from a million miles away. You do not want to present yourself with any characteristics that you cannot back up. For every personality trait or skill that you portray in your campaign, you should have at least 3 character references that can attest to it. Mistakes are bound to be made; it happens.

Authenticity also includes the ability to apologize to your supporters. Allow it to be a moment of strength and humility, a defining example of your character. But after, let it go and do not let one mistake derail your message.

Step 2: Be bold and creative

Make your name known and your message resonate with the masses.

Most people are visual learners so imagery and video coverage should be the top mediums for your campaign. Signage with your smiling face and name in big bold letters. Online ads showing you at work and in the community. Social media posts with photos and videos of you at events that are consistent with your ‘voice’.

You know the phrase “laughter is contagious”? Let your supporters see you the brightest of lights: laughing with a colleague, enjoying a conversation with a community leader or supporter, smiling (and maybe even a little glow from hard work) at a charity event. Sproutsocial features some great examples of this in their article “Social media guide for political campaigns“.

But it’s not enough to show yourself in difference scenarios; you have to show them in different ways. Try posting a Snapchat photo of you on the campaign trail, a Boomerang gif of you passing speech notes with a campaign staff member. Candid shots and live stream videos of you being you during your campaign is a fantastic way to gain support. Don’t stop there. Use interactive posts to get traffic to your website, to increase voter registration. Retweeting/liking/ commenting on your supporters’ posts (that resonate with your message) can also be a great way to connect with everyday people. Reach out and touch the lives of people you want to support you, physically and digitally.

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Step 3: Be Personable

It’s important to be strong and vocal about the issues you care about, but life can get a little too serious and wear your supporters out. Some political scholars even argue that negative messaging can disincentivize voters. It is important for people to see you happy and human.

Create a connection. People have to like you (at least more than the other guy). The masses may be fired up about this issue or the next; but what political surveys continue to show, is that people just want a good job, a home and a happy, well-supported family. You make a connection with this by posting photos and captions of you with your family, telling personal anecdotes that relate your life with an issue, maybe even joke about some embarrassing story from your childhood (as long as it relates contextually). When giving a speech or interview, allow yourself to be vulnerable, even if you get a little choked up on a tragedy or a heartbreaking issue.

This does not mean you should be disingenuous about your feelings or your family relations. Everything you do has to be from the heart, or social media trolls will surely sniff you out and expose your façade. Relatability is a key necessity for a successful candidacy. Your social media presence should clearly show that. How can they trust and vote for you if they don’t know where you’re coming from?

Step 4: Don’t Leave Your Supporters Starved

It is exhausting to keep up a consistent and lively social media presence. But it must be done. Do not let the visual media fountain of your campaign run dry! Maybe even stock up on photos and videos and content (that isn’t timeline based, like an event or holiday), and save them for a rainy uneventful day. Use them as a visual while messaging about an issue. If it is actually raining on the campaign trail, perhaps you could take a photo op to splash in some puddles with your team and post a cute caption (or a pun, if you dare).

Contact us today to find out more about how we can help you achieve your social media goals for your political campaign.

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