Twitter: Where Everyone Is Social, Except Campaigns


political twitterTwo weeks ago I started this series on how candidates and campaigns were missing the boat by forgetting the “social” in social media. Last week I used Snapchat as an example of how the Presidential campaigns were failing, and boy, are they ever failing there.

This week we are going to look at everyone’s favorite social media playground, Twitter. I want to focus mostly on some things a congressional candidate could be doing to make Twitter a tool for engagement instead of another megaphone.

I will admit, using Twitter effectively to engage in a Presidential race is different than in smaller races. The platform is so loud that it is sometimes hard to filter that noise.

Twitter does have a golden opportunity though that these campaigns are not using. As I sit here today, Marco Rubio’s campaign is on life support, and Ted Cruz appears to be the only viable alternative to Donald Trump.

If I head over to Cruz’s Twitter account and scroll through it (which, by the way, almost no one will do), I can see he is tweeting out some content that I would expect. Cruz was endorsed Wednesday morning by his former rival Carly Fiorina. One smart move the campaign has made is in pinning that endorsement at the top of his page. This pinned tweet may seem obvious, but as I type this, Cruz is the only one of the four remaining GOP contenders that has a pinned tweet. That is mind blowing.

Scrolling through his tweets from the last 24 hours, I also see several tweets that talk about how Marco is finished, and it is time to rally around Ted. I follow Cruz on Twitter, and I am on Twitter fairly often, but I have not seen any of these tweets. Twitter is like a running river; if you jump in the middle, it’s hard to see the information that just streamed by you a few hours ago. Cruz should be pushing some of these stories to a targeted audience via promoted tweets. Rubio missed the same opportunity when he started hitting Trump a while back. If Rubio had begun promoting tweets of his greatest hits on Trump, it could have been a lot more effective on Twitter.

What Could Be Done

So there are missed opportunities for sure, but let’s talk about some smaller races that could be using Twitter in unique ways.

Just like the presidential races, I have not seen a Congressional campaign that has used Twitter as anything more than a way to blast out messages, sound bites, and talking points. If I am wrong, please tweet me or leave a comment below and let me know what campaigns are using it effectively.

First, lets look at some accounts who are without question using Twitter effectively: Zappos, Southwest Air, BOA Help, and Gary Vaynerchuck. Just check out their interaction vs. broadcasting.


right social strategy

These are screenshots of a couple most recent “Tweets & replies” from Zappos and Southwest Air. Notice anything? If you scroll through their feeds, you will see more and more of the same: reply after reply to people. Talking to and with people, not shouting at them. Thanking people, answering questions, engaging, and being social.

Not to pick on any campaign specifically, but in a completely random drawing, I decided to pick Ken Bennett in AZ-01 and Dan Innis in NH-01. Two well-known candidates in their districts who are running for office this year.

Looking first at Bennett, I see the same issues as most campaigns. All of his tweets are just broadcasted messages. There is no attempt to connect with anyone. He does use a lot of pictures and photographs which are a great sign. Just doing a quick search for his twitter ID, I see someone who calls themselves a “conservative” who tweeted out a picture of meeting with Bennett and tagged Bennett. There was no reply; no thank you, no great to meet you too. Nothing.

A quick look at Innis’ account shows the same thing. Very few replies in comparison to the number of tweets he sends out. Almost no interactions at all in the last 50 or so tweets.

Campaigns should be using Twitter as a way to communicate with people in the district. Answer questions. Engage with potential constituents as they go about their day. They need to start following people and businesses who are within the district. Start retweeting them. Start congratulating them. Start engaging them.

If I were Innis, I would start an #AskDan hashtag and promote it heavily on his website and other places. Encourage people to ask questions. Then take those questions and repurpose them.

A candidate could answer the question in a tweet making sure to tag the person who asked it. The question could then be shot into a short video, posted on YouTube, and embedded into their site and on Facebook. A short Snapchat story could be made out of the question. The question and video could be sent to their email list in the next mailing. The next time the candidate is in a small business they can snap a photo of the business on Instagram, and then restate and answer the question as it affects the small business on the Instagram comments.

A lot of content creation can come from one Twitter question. Yes, this is requires another job position on the campaign, but a position that would add great benefit to the candidate. All of these social avenues need to play off each other.

The key to Twitter is interaction. When you see successful Twitter accounts, they are at least half personal replies, not 98 percent tweeting at their followers. When you are running for office, people will tweet at you. They will mention you often. The campaign should take a few minutes a day to acknowledge them, reply, retweet, and just connect. Maybe not everyone can get a reply every day. There will be some hostile people you will want to just ignore. Overall, someone should be tasked with not only replying, but engaging people early on so they start to interact with the campaign. The campaign needs to create lists of businesses in the district, supporters, voters in the district, and media outlets.

The campaign should also take the time once a month to bring those online relationships offline. Did you have 40 people use the #AskCandidate hashtag the month before? Send them a tweet and invite them all out for a coffee next month so you can all connect offline. Think of it as creating your own Tweetup for your campaign. Always be thinking about how you can turn new online relationships into offline meetings which will lead to a growing, loyal following.

Campaigns also need to experiment with promotional tweets. These are an excellent way to make sure your message is heard by a lot more people on Twitter and gives an easy opportunity for people to share your message.

Setting up a bunch of fake Twitter accounts to retweet and promote your message is not a valuable strategy. Twitter can be a powerful tool for connecting with and building up a following. That will never happen if campaigns do not seriously work on making most of the tweets starting with a @.

There are 3 comments.

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  1. James Lileks Contributor
    James Lileks

    You’re right – personality and engagement is key. But no candidate has the time to tweet as much as necessary, so you have to delegate. That means an interesting feed, but it’ll have a different voice than the candidate. Trump does his own, and it has a certain fascination, but so does a box of fireworks thrown into a bonfire.

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  2. Grosseteste Thatcher

    So what about the problem with being social with people in a national campaign where you don’t know the people tweeting at you?  If you were going retweet people who took selfies with the candidate, I could see that Trump scandal with the white supremacist radio host happening several times a day to everyone.  This leaves out deliberate saboteurs like the @ilduce2016 guy.

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  3. Dean Ouellette Member
    Dean Ouellette

    I do agree, to be as effective as you want, it cannot be run by the candidate. I believe if every campaign had someone running their social strategy, they could drive enough engagement on Twitter/Snap/Insta/FB that they could collect hundreds of additional email/text numbers that could then be used for work/fundraising later where the extra cost should more than pay for itself. But they need someone who does it, and does it right on a consistent basis.

    • #3

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