Politics and Social Media: Separating the Men from the Boys
Picture it: You’re a politician in a strategy meeting with your communications director. Imagine he tells you there is a way to be accessible to your constituents, win over activists and bloggers, and occasionally drive national news headlines, and it will only cost you a small time investment of 15-20 minutes per day. You’d say ‘sign me up!’ right? There is such a way to do this, yet far too many of our politicians have their feet wet in the kiddie pool but are afraid to dive into social media.
Politicians who use social media successfully:
- Are genuine – they write their own social media messages, and make it clear when someone else does instead
- Are engaged – they respond to incoming messages and they create their own content, but still…
- Direct followers to actions or others’ internet content that isn’t their website or press release
- Use different forms of media to express their point – including blogs, photos, video, hashtags, jokes, and maybe even a few types of media I haven’t heard of yet
A politician who is successful at social media will incorporate all four of these qualities, and perhaps others that aren’t listed.
Politicians have a hard enough time convincing the public of their honesty. Internet users pick up on obvious cues that staff members make when they’re ghost-writing social media messages. Rather than try to pretend that you can remain above the fray by tweeting a finely crafted blog post that your communications director wrote, why not tell us your thoughts on the latest nonsense coming out of the Obama administration? Why not join a hashtag game for a couple of minutes? Why not link to a story exposing media bias against your most important issues?
In order to drive conversations, it’s crucial to do more than just start them. After you share an idea or story, find out what people thought about it: follow up with them when they have questions about your ideas, and learn from their perspective.
People don’t want to hear that you’ve sponsored H.R. 1284327 and that you’ve signed up 20 co-sponsors. They want to know about the problem you’re trying to solve – have any conservative bloggers or authors written about it? Do you know any that might be interested? When linking to someone else’s content, be sure contact and credit them generously – people like to know when their work is being used, and will probably give the story even more of a push when they know you’re involved.
Using a variety of different media can keep your fans and followers engaged – you can spread enthusiasm much faster with one humorous hashtag or one funny picture than a million speeches. People want to share big ideas online, but they also crave human connections through moments of joy that they share with others.
When politicians treat social media like a one-way broadcasting medium, they do a disservice to the issues they care about, and miss a valuable opportunity to get instant feedback and connect with the people they need most.