Dr. Politics: More on Social Media

By Dwight Patel MCGOP First Vice Chair*

Facebook

The use of social media in politics including Twitter, Facebook and YouTube has dramatically changed the way campaigns are run and how Americans interact with their elected officials.

The prevalence of social media in politics has made elected officials and candidates for public office more accountable and accessible to voters. Plus, the ability to publish content and broadcast it to millions of people instantaneously allows campaigns to carefully manage their candidates’ images based on rich sets of analytics in real time and at almost no cost.

Twitter and Facebook have become instrumental in organizing campaigns. They allow like-minded voters and activists to easily share news and information such as campaign events with each other. That's what the "Share" function on Facebook and "retweet" feature of Twitter are for.

Donald Trump used Twitter heavily in his 2016 presidential campaign. "I like it because I can get my point of view out there, and my point of view is very important to a lot of people that are looking at me," Trump said.

The days of firing off a catch-all message, which may or may not turn off followers are over.  Today, you can use social media analytics to tailor and craft your message to your audience, use the analytics of who is visiting your site and find out the issues they like. Then, you create lists for various interests and age groups. In other words, a campaign may discover that a message that is appropriate for voters under 30 years old will not be as effective with the over 60 year-old demographic.

Facebook Bosting and Ad Buys

Facebook has changed the rules on purchasing ads and boosting posts.  If the posts are for political campaigns, you must be verified by Facebook.  Google isn’t accepting political ads anymore. 

So, what do you have to do?

It takes about 5 days but play it safe and plan for 10 days.  Go onto Facebook and start the verification process today, if you haven’t done so already.  Otherwise, good luck promoting your events or campaign information on FB and attracting new people.

YouTube Videos

I don’t have to tell you that most people don’t like to read long dissertations on issues. There is a reason why Audible and books on tape/cd/mp3 are popular, because it is easier to listen than to read a 5-page position paper.  You need to make your video or podcast entertaining (Jerry Cave is one of the best. Perhaps you can get Jerry to give you tips on putting together an entertaining/informative campaign message.)  And don’t stop after 3 videos. You need to have many more videos that will be used for everything from explaining your positions to fundraising.  A great example of how videos are used best is demonstrated by Howard County Executive Alan Kittleman (www.kittleman.com).  When making videos after you post, use the captioning feature in YouTube. 

Twitter

To start building your Twitter community, you should be tweeting at least 3 to 4 times per week or more.  Conventional wisdom for Twitter says to tweet a minimum of 3 times per day.  However, I feel that after 3 or more times a day, your tweets get lost.  When you tweet less, people pay more attention to them. However, it does slow down the process of getting followers on Twitter.

A couple of things you can do to get the most out of Twitter: Update your Twitter account regularly. Even though your campaign may not have many resources for social media, keeping a campaign Twitter account up-to-date should not take much time. How often you post is less important than posting regularly, no matter what the schedule may be. Maintain momentum by posting on a daily or weekly schedule. Anything less than weekly, and you may start to lose followers.

Post relevant material. Candidates don’t have to just post updates on what they are doing or thinking. Take a look at how other prominent politicians use Twitter for style and content ideas. News articles, campaign press releases, endorsements, website updates, blog posts and event alerts are all good material to keep followers up to date. Try tweet-enhancing tools such as Twtapps or Twitpic. Use hashtags, retweets and shortened links to give variety to your posts. Be authentic in your tone and invite feedback.

Instagram

Instagram‘s content format may seem restrictive at first. Adapting messages for image and video can be challenging, especially when trying to impart complex or detailed messages. However, there is plenty of scope for candidates to take advantage of Instagram’s emphasis on visuals. Short-form video allows for clips from debates, events and interviews to be uploaded, while campaign logos and slogans can be included in imagery to make feeds more distinctive.

Election 2016 candidates showed some variety in their approaches to Instagram. Many have embraced the personalized feel of the platform and added several photos of family members. This gives the feed a distinctive feel – one which combines the intimacy of a family photo album with the structure of a traditional campaign. Videos are generally few and far between but used emphatically where they are deployed.

One clear trend among the candidates is the use of family photos. Images of public figures with family members adds a sense of openness to a feed, making them seem more relatable and accessible to followers. The trend isn’t exclusive to Instagram – Hillary Clinton in particular has made ample use of this on Facebook – but the platform’s emphasis on visuals provides a more natural home for such photos and allows followers to feel more closely connected to candidates.

This trend is doubly striking, since nearly every candidate has embraced it. Admittedly, the period we looked at for this article took in the Christmas holidays, yet images from the candidates’ private lives weren’t confined to the festive season. Bernie Sanders’ photo of himself and his brother as children earned 38,575 interactions. The description refers to the financial difficulties faced by his family as well as his unlikely run for the presidency, cleverly linking the image to a key focus of his campaign: opportunity.

Many Election 2016 candidates posted photos of volunteers and supporters. This strategy not only shows the candidate interacting directly with voters but helps to align imagery with campaign sentiments and issues.

Final Thoughts

The Montgomery County Agriculture Fair opens its gates on Friday August 10, 2018.  If you are running for local office, you should be there Friday – Sunday, shaking hands and meeting voters.  This is where the government gets closest to the people.  For those of you running statewide, there is a schedule of days below:

Monday, Aug 13, 2018 – is Family Day and VIP Day - FREE admission for all youth ages 11 and under.

Tuesday Aug 14, 2018 – is Senior Citizens Day – Statewide Candidates: You want to be there for this day if you can.

Wednesday Aug 14, 2018 – is Family Day Again

VERY IMPORTANT

Thursday Aug 16, 2018 – is Military Day (Free admission for active military in uniform or with a valid military ID until 5pm.)

Friday Aug 17, 2018 – is a Regular Fair day

Saturday Aug 18, 2018 – is a Regular Fair day

If you click this link (http://mcagfair.com/general-information/day-events/) you can see the details of the Fair Days. The Fair opens up every morning at 10 am with the exception of Friday Aug 10, 2018 when the gate opens at 3:00 pm.

Also, as always, feel free to reach out to me if you want to speak one-on-one on campaign strategies.  Email me: Dwight@politicalarchitects.com.

*Mr. Patel is a candidate for State Senate for Legislative District 20.

Montgomery County Republican Party