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Social Elections: Tweeting to the Converted

TWITTER TALKWithout being explicit about the specific candidate, I did offer my services during the recent election campaign and was able to leverage some of the Social lessons I learned from the Barack Obama campaigns to good effect.

As I have already written about here, analysis from Todd Wheatland  and Blue State Digital’s Joe Rospars were very useful in helping me to better understand how to use Social Media in a local political ground campaign.

Social has increasingly become a very visible campaigning tool, but where the 2010 election was very experimental, there seems to be more rigour and formula now.  Parties have embedded it much more into the fabric of what they do.  Both parties at the central level employed Social very effectively during the 2013 campaign - both Facebook and Twitter, as well as You Tube - to get the message out.  This article sums up the Social story during this campaign.

A Social political campaign needs to first of all better Engage supporters in a discussion about policy and political philosophy; and then secondly to Inspire, Empower and Mobilise "the base" to help them in turn engage their own communities on behalf of the campaign.

"It's about having the two-way conversation and the back and forth with a whole lot of people at once, at scale, and then also being able to develop the relationships so that you can facilitate conversations between them and their friends, neighbours and colleagues so that they can really be the owner and the messenger themselves in their community."

Joe Rospar, Digital Strategic for the Obama Campaign

A Tactical Framework that emerges is as follows:

  1. Seek engagement by fostering discussion.  Ask questions, solicit opinion and try to provoke a response.  Social can be a very powerful  two-way medium.  Currently much Social content is one-way - a statement rather than a discussion.
  2. Identify passionate supporters and seek to formally recruit them into the Social and even ground Campaign as volunteers. Consider creating an “inner-circle” for uber-supporters where they can get early access to forthcoming content
  3. Develop rich content to provide supporters with the tools for them to inspire their communities.  In particular, Infographics, videos, powerful images, pithy 140-character soundbites captured live from the hustings, impressive factoids supporting policy positions and illustrating party differences

Moreover, Social can be used to empower supporters to mobilise their communities with tactical instructions:

  • In the run up to Election Day sharing voter enrolment and absentee voting resources from the Electoral Commission
  • On Election Day itself - using Twitter and Facebook to direct voters on tactical voting, preferences etc (study Obama’s  #stayinline Campaign) and to #getoutthevote or #vote1yourparty

Effective employment of Social Media beyond its use as a dissemination tool, can make all the difference in a tight race.  Specifically, in the last week I designed and implemented a campaign to drive out hard, solid factoids about party achievements in government which served to provide “the base” with useful collateral to share with their networks.  We found people were far more confident in sharing what seemed to be proven and indisputable (ideally supported by numbers) facts, rather than debatable opinions.

A sustained drip-feed of statistics and milestones - intensified on election day - generated more than 600 Retweets, as well as other public messages of support, in the final five days of the campaign and created more momentum going into the final poll.  Moreover, How To Vote tweets were helpful in supporting the how to vote collateral handed out at polling booth.

Social will not work on its own, and must work hand-in-hand with traditional ground campaign essentials such as door-knocking and letter-boxing, but is rapidly establishing itself as mission critical to a grass-roots campaign success.