The story of social media in political campaigns is still very mixed, but the number of campaigns thinking creatively and deploying social media to achieve specific objectives (versus racing for bragging rights over the number of fans or followers) is definitely on the rise.
Votes are the ultimate goal for any campaign, but money and volunteer effort are the intermediate steps that a campaign should be using to judge the effectiveness of its social media. I’ll focus on Facebook, as it’s the dominant social medium used by campaigns of all sizes.
Starting from the first impression, I’m seeing the best campaigns take the time to design a welcome tab that engages visitors and guides them to a next step. The Deval Patrick campaign (MA Governor) encourages a familiar first activity, then presents visitors with an easy step up the engagement ladder (like the page, then watch a video). Contrast the guided welcome with the approach of John Hickenlooper’s campaign (CO Governor), which dumps visitors directly into the wall with no direction or request to engage.
The best campaigns then focus on converting Facebook visitors into more active supporters by providing very directed activities that give the campaign more insights and get these supporters to act on behalf of the campaign. A common request is to share an email address, which indicates a willingness to listen to the candidate. Again, the Deval Patrick campaign provides a very clear explanation of the value of this transaction (both to the supporter and the campaign) to encourage action.
Going overboard on the activity options is also common, as the Marco Rubio (FL Senate) action center illustrates (this is just a partial selection of a dozen options). I can’t say at this point which is more effective, but I suspect that the “dim sum” approach gets less response than the focused effort.
The ultimate engagement is to convert these online supporters into real world activists. As examples, the Meg Whitman campaign (CA Governor) used Facebook to channel supporters into the numerous field offices she opened around the state. The Deval Patrick campaign heavily promoted its get-out-the-vote efforts and made it easy for supporters to get plugged in.
The payoff for all of these campaigns that took the time to think through a social media strategy was to recruit supporters who were more than just numbers on a web page and engage them to push voters to the polls.
- Social Media Plays Breakthrough Role in Florida’s 2010 Campaigns (eon.businesswire.com)
- Politics and social media (e1evation.com)
- The Future of Social Media and Politics (mashable.com)