Six Tips to Use Social Media in a Political Campaign

Election night victory! Mary Ellen Miller, MarketingMel, and future Judge Lisa Rice.

Election night: Mary Ellen Miller, MarketingMel, and future Judge Lisa Rice.

To those who regularly read my blog posts you know I am enamored with the subject of personal branding. Perhaps there is no greater personal branding challenge than working with an aspiring political office holder. MarketingMel was given a tremendous opportunity to work for highly successful and popular former prosecutor, turned private practice attorney, Lisa Nidiffer Rice for the past six months as campaign manager. After nearly six months of long, grueling days, Lisa Rice, candidate for Criminal Court Judge Part 1 in the first judicial district of Tennessee, emerged with a decisive victory Tuesday, May 6 in the Republican primary. Lisa Rice will become the first ever female Criminal Court Judge in Northeast Tennessee when she wins the general election in August. (She has no competitor in that election so the primary was the deciding election.)

The campaign encompassed three counties, a huge geographic area. Even though people around here love to have candidates campaign door to door, and she did some of that, there is no way Lisa could reach everyone door to door, particularly in the rural areas. We had to rely on ways to target more voters in a wide swath. We used traditional media; billboards, some radio, television and print. We took a gamble and bucked popular politicians opinion and did not use direct mail. Just too many voters told us they tossed direct mail in the trash. The exception was a highly customized, hand written postcard featuring Lisa and her family that was mailed from personal supporters and friends to their supporters and friends.

Social media however, played a key role in the campaign.

1- The Candidate MUST have a Facebook- You could say I dragged Lisa kicking and screaming into Facebook. You see as a successful trial lawyer, Lisa used Facebook against people in court on a regular basis. I assured her that if you want to run for office you MUST have a presence on the world’s largest social network with over 1.3 billion users. Facebook is today’s word of mouth marketing.

2- Facebook really does translate to real life. People LOVED Lisa on Facebook. They eagerly wrote unsolicited testimonials about how she as an attorney helped them out of a jam. This may sound crazy but it’s true: When people like you on Facebook it does tend to translate liking you at the polls. This isn’t scientific but it is proven. I even studied it during the Obama/Romney campaign and went out on a limb “calling” the election for Obama based strictly upon his social media presence and popularity. At a local campaign level, I’ve also seen the reverse happen; if people don’t like you on Facebook, they don’t like you at the polls. I guess my MBA stat’s professor might say that Facebook is a bit of a statistical sample.

3- The Candidate becomes her own media/publishing house – During the final weekend of the campaign my candidate had to endure attacks from the opponent that were both personal and untrue. She had to respond, but how? We chose to use her own web site and her own social media channels to make our rebuttals and the information immediately had nearly 60 shares within just minutes of posting. Our message was carried out and we didn’t need the traditional press to tell it.

4- Video rules! We created a :30 video for Lisa that literally “took off” on Facebook, receiving numerous shares. The commercial was well received both on TV and via social channels.

http://youtu.be/KZVY-OUZlAg

 

5- Use other digital channels too: We created a web site, LinkedIn account, E-newsletter and YouTube Channel for Lisa.  For a candidate who is fond of saying she “repels technology” (even though she’s never without her iPad) her campaign video received over 1,000 views on YouTube alone, but we drove people to a web site link with the video where it was seen many more times. I shared out Lisa’s information with the hashtag #votelisarice to my instagram and twitter accounts and asked our campaign volunteers to do the same.

6- Digital advertising is powerful: Now that Facebook has gone to a “pay to play” model some well placed “boosts” on popular posts and paid Facebook ads, timed correctly, can bring a very cost effective “shot in the arm” to a political campaign.

 

Have you worked on or observed a successful political campaign? What were some of the communications platforms used?

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