There is no doubt that social media has become a necessary part of any political campaign. Campaign budgets are always tight and social media is probably going to give you the most connections per money spent than any other medium-that is, if you do it right.
There have been numerous examples of how the use of social media and the Internet made a long shot challenger into the campaign victor. So how does a candidate employ the channels available to them to become the overall winner?
- Start early. Even if you’re just thinking about getting into politics, start a Twitter account and an open Facebook Profile. Work at making relevant connections. Not having connections in your social media channels is a lot like announcing your intention to run for prime minister of Canada to a huge empty stadium.
Connect and engage with people in the geographic region you’re thinking about politicking in. Show up to special events and demonstrate how active you are in your community. Take pictures and post them online. Basically, use the channels at your disposal to demonstrate yourself as an active and interested member of society.
- Join groups and online chat boards in your area and be an active member. Tweet about issues that are important to the community and elicit reaction. Be active in the conversation which demonstrates that you have a genuine interest in the community in which you want to serve – getting your name around is crucial.
- Optimize your social media channels. Make them all interconnect and tweak them for the best keywords. It’s so terribly time consuming having to post the same content multiple times in multiple networks and in multiple channels, so make it all automatic. Take the time to optimize your postings for keywords so your content will be more easily found when someone is looking for the keywords in search engines.
- Authenticity If you’re not authentic, you can stop here and choose another line of work. The key to social media is authenticity. Your personality has to shine through in your communications. People want to connect with you, the person running for office, not a talking head on the television or YouTube video that looks and sounds an awful lot like a politician. Online is a place where reputation is everything and it takes time to build an online reputation so make it solidly your own.
- One word: Transparency. I have rekindled my interest in politics recently and I’m following a story about a member of our federal government who made a small edit in a federal document. At first she said she didn’t, and then she said she did. That was over a month ago and the political storm is still raging within the House of Commons. Now, imagine if a politician with a large online following was caught trying to obfuscate the facts, not in front of other politicians, but in front the people who have elected them and are paying them to be there. Again, reputation is everything online and if you’re not transparent about your actions, you can be certain of a non-elected position after the next election.
- Tweet on Twitter. The new mayor of our city is a social media master. He is authentic and genuine, and he does his best to involve people in his everyday life as mayor of our city. If you’re an interested citizen, you can follow him on twitter and find out that he is actually doing something for the tax dollars we are paying him. Now he’s in council chambers, later he’s at a steering committee meeting, and this evening he’ll be practicing with his punk band for the upcoming Earth Day concert. Never before in history can the average citizen have an insight into the daily life of our political figures on a daily basis. This could be a double edged sword, but if used correctly, you won’t get a reputation of being lazy or getting paid to be a politician and moonlight at your law practice as well-that is, if you’re not.
- After you win the election, stay connected. Those people who voted you in want to know that you’re doing what they elected you to do, so let them know. Send them pictures of the buffet table at a charity fund raiser, tweet about the difficult negotiations at the budget meeting, post some articles of interest in Facebook. What you’re really doing is securing your victory at the next election.