We are now covering Part III in the study of digital campaigning. We have done the overview and covered Facebook for campaigns and setting up campaign blogs. Now we embark on Twitter and Instagram. Twitter is akin to the elevator speech. Get your message out in 140 characters or less. Instagram demonstrates how a picture is worth a thousand words.
Jumping onto Twitter
First, get Your campaign name at twitter, @YourNameForOffice. Over the past few years, there have been many cases of nefarious bloggers on both sides of the aisle as well as rival campaigns squatting your social media handle, domain name, and even using your handle to spread rumors and outright lies about your campaign. As I recommended in the first column, if you have a 1% chance you might want to run for office reserve your domain, VoteYourNameOffice. com, .org, .net or FirstNameLastName.com, .org, .net or friendsofYourName.com, .org, net, and do the same with the social media platforms you will use. You don’t want to be the candidate who must get a long domain such as VoteJonathanRSmithIV.com, because your rival has taken VoteJonSmith.com. The same rules apply for Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and all other forms of social media you may be using.
Rules to Follow for Twitter
1) Claim @YourCampaign. Even if you don’t plan to use Twitter right away, be sure you claim your name or campaign name as your Twitter handle asap. If you put it off, there’s a risk that your name could be taken by someone else, similar to domain name squatting. Some candidates choose to use their existing personal account when they run for office. If you already have a Twitter account, you could use that one or create a brand new handle for your campaign. The advantage of using a variant of your name (@JoeSmith) rather than a year (@JonSmith2018) or a position (@Smith4OfficeNameHere) is that the account won’t become outdated after an election. In much the same way as you deal with campaign collateral, don’t put the year or office in your twitter handle.
2) Modify your account settings and look. Add your information and website link to the account settings. Brand your profile design by customizing the color settings and background. Use your campaign colors and logo to create a consistent look with your campaign website or any other online presence you control.
3) 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 your schedule may be. Maintain momentum by posting on a daily or weekly schedule. Anything less than weekly, and you may start to lose followers.
4) Post relevant material. Candidates need to do more than just post updates on what they are doing or thinking. Take a look at how 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.
5) Build your following. In the beginning, you will use personal contacts as your followers. Once you are up and running, Twitter will provide recommendations of others to follow. If you do this, some of these people will follow you back. This will help expose you to others who may be interested in following your campaign. Tools such as Twitter Lists and Twibes can help you find niche users. You can also use Twitter to connect one-on-one with supporters. It’s a great way to address immediate topics and concerns and really engage with others. Use it as a listening tool to learn more about voter moods, issue ideas and the latest news.
6) Make your Twitter account part of your larger online presence. Twitter is only one method of online communication. Your website, blog, Facebook and other social accounts should be kept up to date as well. Because Twitter is designed for ‘small bites’ of information, you can update your status far more frequently than you would on Facebook without ticking off your followers.
Jumping on Instagram
By now, you are likely asking yourself, do I really need an Instagram account? The answer is YES! We have all heard the phrase, A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words. It’s true! I remember an architecture project where I needed to use a custom window. Although I spent hours writing up detailed instructions on how to build the window for the fabricator, my instructions — although they were clear — got confusing to them. I solved this problem by sending 10 separate drawings of the window design. The visuals enabled the fabricator to get the window built with no problem, and the best part was that he didn’t have to call me every few days to explain something to him. Moral of the story: Use pictures to tell your story.
While other platforms have their benefits, Instagram allows an organization or campaign to promote its cause in a very approachable way. For example, being able to casually post a picture of volunteers hard at work during an event, a picture of a family who has benefitted from services, or even simple ballot measures to further an advocacy campaign, all provide a way to show accountability in a positive way. All of the above and more make Instagram a unique and powerful advocacy campaign tool.
By now, you are probably asking yourself, who am I attracting with Instagram that I am not getting from other social media platforms? More than half of Instagram users fall into the 18-29 age range, which also is the prime demographic of potential door knockers. In addition to age, Instagram has the most diverse audience compared to other frequently used social media platforms when it comes to education, income, gender, and location. Compared to Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Snapchat, & Google+, Instagram is the only social media platform where college graduates are not the top education demographic.
Instagram also lets you to share your pictures on other social media platforms you already use like Facebook and Twitter. This allows you to link back to Instagram as well as give a more detailed explanation about the picture.
Instagram and Twitter are both must-haves in your campaign social media arsenal. Also, keep in mind that you need to keep your personal Social Media accounts separate from personal ones. You want a FIREWALL between private and public accounts. This is even more important if you have young children. There are too many unscrupulous bloggers who would have no problem attacking or intimidating members of your family or friends to get to you. So, just keep things separate — personal is personal, political is political.
This fall, Dr. Politics will be doing a Social Media Boot Camp for potential 2018 candidates. Keep an eye on the MCGOP Events Calendar for dates in mid-fall 2017. We will cover Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter & Instagram and other Social Media Platforms.
As always,you can find me online at several locations. Follow me on Twitter @DwightNation or email me questions or topics you’d like me to cover in the future at firstname.lastname@example.org online, at www.dwightnation.com or www.politicalarchitects.com and as always www.mcgop.com/dr-politics/