With the presidential race in full swing, we’ve seen Twitter turn into a digital debate room where politicians, pundits and citizens can each have a say. Since the last presidential election, Twitter has morphed into an integral part of political campaigns. Our candidates have recognized that social media is the new face of grassroots campaigning and a critical part of their success. They now have fully staffed digital teams monitoring social media sites, encouraging dialogue, shares, putting out fires and keeping social media snafus at bay. No matter what our governmental differences are, we can all learn a few lessons from the political realm.
1. You cannot control the messaging, just shape the conversation
Tweeters beware: Social slip-ups on can make or break a career, especially if it means violating congressional rules or breaking an ethical code a la ‘Weinergate’. The same can go for our clients. Tweeting at events should play into a PR campaign strategy but take heed on what the messaging is beforehand and remember that the real-time nature of social media has its risks. Tweeting can shape the dialogue and in the event of a tweep-up, immediately follow with an apology and avoid everything that this guy did.
2. Avoid tweet-bots
There’s nothing more un-American than a Twitter-bot. Avoid it at all costs. The 2010 campaign used fake automated Twitter accounts to create the illusion of enthusiasm and support, but users have smartened up since and are a lot less forgiving. When handling a PR crisis or customer support issue on social, avoid the dreaded auto-reply and handle it in real-time with a real person, or risk the wrath of your tweet-bot going viral and hurting your client’s brand.
3. Polls don’t win the White House but results matter
If raw numbers meant anything to the Obama vs. Romney digital teams then Obama is a shoo-in for the presidency. His social following is higher than Romney’s, but the latter’s social campaign director is focused on the engagement, not the number of followers. Team Romney is tracking the number of shares, likes, posts, sentiment and content of postings to measure success. What does this mean for our clients? Social media is not about the raw number of likes and followers (although that can play a part). Tweet-bots and fake accounts can’t engage and so the true test of a successful social media campaign lies in the content and engagement of its audience. When measuring results, focus on the qualitative ROI that matters and not the mere number of fans as an indicator of success.
4. Go pro – hire a real social media expert
Unlike McCain in 2000 and Howard Dean in 2004, President Obama was the first to harness social media to convert online donors into votes and online fervor into real ground support, winning the presidency in a landslide victory. Needless to say, Obama did not achieve this with an intern handling its social media strategy. Rather, Team Obama had a fully staffed digital team, much like Romney has now, monitoring, analyzing, creating and engaging social channels to make the impact that it did. If your client is serious about social media our consul is to advise them on the importance of bringing on an experienced professional. Social media is an investment for our clients and should be a critical component of its overall business marketing strategy. While young interns are tech-savvy and creative, a campaign seen by millions of customers in real-time requires the expertise of a social media professional that knows strategy and understands ROI.
In the race to a winning PR and social media campaign, the takeaways from our political candidates are invaluable. We must lead our clients to a winning strategy that combines creativity, digital-savvy and professionalism in order to achieve the success they depend on us for.