This Is Why Social Media Can Make or Break Your Campaign (for first-time candidates)
Few things have reshaped American politics like social media. It’s the place where so much of our political discourse lives. And it’s a place where our divisions are exasperated. Social media is essential for your campaign. But you won’t win on social media. However, you can lose your race by posting something dumb online. So be careful. Here are some lessons I’ve learned:
Voters want authenticity. Your social media needs to be in your voice. If you’re a funny person, then be funny. If you’re a detailed person, then use social media to detail your positions on issues. Be yourself on social. If you end up using consultants, staff, or volunteers to make social posts for you, make sure you spend a lot of time beforehand teaching them to speak in your voice. One note - don’t be sarcastic on social media very often. Think of it as a spice to use sparingly.
Candidates can easily obsess about how many followers and likes they have. Having a decent number of followers will give your campaign credibility with both voters who are checking you out and media who are considering covering your campaign. However, chasing a big social media following is not the same thing as campaigning. In 2020, one congressional candidate I was familiar with grew a Twitter following of over 70,000 people. When his election was held, he managed about 1000 votes. Don’t do that.
Social media platforms attract trolls. We’ve all interacted with them from time to time. I would recommend that you don’t. When I ran for Congress, I would always have a conversation on social media with a voter in my district, but I wasn’t going to waste my time and emotional energy debating a troll who can’t vote for me anyway. Figure out what works for you, and then don’t let the trolls grind you down.
Get a young person to volunteer for your campaign to create memes. If a picture says a thousand words, a meme might say a million, especially a truly funny one.
Double-Check Your Personal Social Accounts
Before you launch your campaign publicly, go through your personal social accounts and make sure there isn’t anything inappropriate or that could be misconstrued. It’s a lot easier to delete those posts before you start than after your opponent has pointed them out.
A no-brainer for candidates. However, make sure you create a candidate page instead of using your personal profile for all of your candidate posts on Facebook. Also, watch closely what happens with Facebook advertising. Facebook disabled political ads in 2020. Currently, they’re back on, but no one knows what Facebook will do as the next election approaches.
Twitter is also a no-brainer. I don’t recommend that candidates post the same things on Facebook and Twitter. They are different platforms that require different things to be successful. Twitter is ideal for connecting with activists and organizations. It’s best when it’s a conversation, not a megaphone, so don’t be afraid to interact. However, for some reason, the trolls tend to gravitate on Twitter, so don’t take it too seriously.
TikTok is my seventeen-year-old’s favorite social media site. Candidates can use TikTok to connect with younger voters. Personally, I’m not on TikTok, but check out Kelly Krout’s TikTok. She was a candidate for state legislature in 2020 and used this platform creatively to educate voters. I’m a big fan of what she did.
Insta is for images. Post pictures of events, of quotes, of everything you do in the campaign. Use Instagram to document your campaign and give your supporters a behind-the-scenes look at what you’re experiencing.
I am not a Snapchat user, but I do know that its user-base skews younger. I also know that Snapchat is attempting to beef up its political usage to compete better with TikTok. It might well be worth your time in 2022.
If you are working a day job while you campaign, I would recommend you think long and hard before using LinkedIn for your candidacy. LinkedIn is uniquely a business and networking platform. There is not nearly as much political discussion on LinkedIn as there is on Facebook and Twitter. Most LinkedIn users are there for work purposes. If you bombard them with political posts, it may just backfire. Be careful on LinkedIn.
Clubhouse is the newest social media platform that will only continue to grow as we get closer to the 2022 election. It’s an audio-only platform that could be utilized by candidates to have literal conversations with voters about the issues that matter most to them. There’s a learning curve, but I like Clubhouse a lot.
Does all of this feel a little complicated? Well, it should because it is. That’s why I’ve put together an online course that will walk you through, step-by-step, how to run for office. It is going to launch soon. When it does, you’ll want to be the first to know.
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