Be Your Own Press with Instagram

 

instagramEarned media — it’s easy if your name is Donald Trump or you are a sitting governor looking for re-election. But what if you’re an underdog congressional candidate looking to take on a sitting, but vulnerable, incumbent?

While earned media is not going to be easy for you to obtain, you now have media tools at your disposal to talk to the voter directly. One of the most powerful ones is the social photo platform Instagram. Instagram, along with Twitter, Facebook and Snapchat are changing the way that politicians interact with existing supporters and those in their district.

Instagram allows you to give an account of the your day that the local media can’t cover. While Instagram may not have the same attention grab as Snapchat, it does exceed the engagement that you can garner on Twitter. But Instagram should also be used differently than both of those platforms.

On Instagram, most of your followers are going to be supporters or people open to supporting you. While Snapchat tends to have a higher curiosity factor, Instagram tends to be geared more towards those already on your team. One mistake to avoid is taking an image on Instagram and using the same image on Twitter, Snapchat, and Facebook. The platforms are different, and if you are doing the same thing on all the platforms, people will start to tune you out. Remember that your demographic for Instagram is going to be slightly different, slightly older than your Snapchat user, yet younger than your typical Facebook follower.

We all know the saying, a picture is worth a thousand words. This is so true. We can see the analytics when we post to Twitter and use an image as opposed to just text.

With social media, especially Instagram, it’s all about the optics. Instagram and other photo sharing platforms give your followers 24/7 access to what is happening with your campaign. This access gives voters more of a chance to get to know you in the way you want to portray yourself. And it allows the candidate not to rely on traditional media to deliver the message you want when you want it. This access also gives voters a chance to engage directly with the campaign on their time. And what campaign is not looking for more engagement from voters who are seeking out engagement?

Tips to Maximize your Instagram Experience:

Follow people. Remember, it is “social” media. Sure, it may be hard for a presidential campaign with over a million followers to follow and engage a wide audience. Most of us are not involved in the day-to-day of a national campaign. But for a smaller race, follow people, engage on their photos, and tag them in pictures.

Every press release should be a photo or video. Every time you issue a press release, you hope the media will pick it up and run with it. The truth is, that is not going to happen very often. So why not include a picture or a video to send that message directly to your supporters and those interested in your campaign? If you issue a statement on a local zoning issue, take a picture with someone whom it affects and tell their story. If you get an endorsement from a state VFW leader, shoot a ten-second video of him endorsing you.

Post short campaign videos and advertisements. Donald Trump’s campaign is great at this. Trump recently released a 15-second video on Instagram about “our toughest opponents,” which ended with Hillary doing her now-famous bark. It was hilarious, effective, and didn’t require a big budget to produce video. Instagram is great for showing who you are, but when it comes time to compare and contrast, you can do a quick, amusing video and have an avenue to get it out. Encourage your supporters to share your videos and they can spread quickly.

Pick a filter and stick with it. There’s no problem with you using Instagram filters; that’s part of what makes Instagram fun. But if you use filters, pick just one to maintain a uniform look.

Post photos of the candidate on the road and in local establishments. Candidates spend a lot of time on the road. Snapchat is a great way to tell the behind-the-scenes story, but don’t forget to use Instagram to highlight the candidate in the district. When you head to that local coffee shop, take a picture, tag the establishment (since they probably have an account too), and tag others you meet there. When you tag someone, you should follow them. They will often follow you back, and that gives you more opportunities to connect with them later.

Don’t forget to show people who you are when you are not “on the job.” Often candidates don’t want to “use” their family, but this isn’t a matter of using anyone. It is giving people a sense of who you are as a person. The more you can show who you are, the better chance voters have to connect with you on a personal level.

Instagram should be a mix of video and pictures. When someone looks at your account, they should not see all videos or all photos. And they are much more likely to look at your past photos on Instagram than they are to look at your Twitter history.

Master hashtags in Instagram. Instagram, more than almost any other platform, can take advantage of hashtags. I will often check out #ChandlerAZ or another local hashtag to see what’s going on in my community. If you go to an event or a local high school game, find out what hashtag they’re using for it. It will help you connect with a lot more people.

Not every photo needs to include the candidate. I would advise that at least one-third to one-half of all the photos should have the candidate, but the rest should be about the people of the campaign or district. You want to promote others as much as you promote yourself.

Make sure your bio is not boring and just text. Be fun, make the bio visual, and mention who runs the account (e.g., this account is run by the candidate or the staff). One underutilized section of the bio is the link to a website. Instead of simply listing the campaign website, change it frequently to reflect what message the campaign is promoting right now. And finally, use a hashtag. Maybe something like #AskJon or #JonForAZ. Here are a couple of well-done bios.

FullSizeRender (1)FullSizeRender (2) FullSizeRenderDon’t forget Instagram advertisements. Right now, for example, you can target all females inside a zip code and have a relatively targeted list. Remember, the average user spends almost a 30 minutes a day scrolling through photos on Instagram. Use it. Facebook owns Instagram, and they know how to target their users for ads. The key to an Instagram ad is to make it look authentic. Make it look like a photo you would expect to see on Instagram.


I would love to hear your thoughts. Leave me a comment below and let me know what you think about Instagram for a campaign.

There are 10 comments.

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  1. Tim H. Member
    Tim H.
    @TimH

    That’s interesting advice. I am not on Instagram or Snapchat, but I use Facebook and Twitter. Though it’s not a campaign account, I follow the local university president on Twitter, and for an official like that, it seems pretty similar to a politician’s account. I had expected information about what was happening at the university, but I was surprised that what was posted was actually very dull and not informative. The posts are usually things like “Proud to speak to the local Rotary Club.” I’d prefer to hear some ideas and opinions, even if they’re not controversial ones. Something informative and useful. The same goes for politicians. I follow the accounts because I want to learn things.

    • #1
  2. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    Candidates should hire professionals to get them started on these platforms.

    One thing that I think needs to be stressed is that every politician and candidate and business should have his or her own comprehensive website. Everything should be sent out from there. I’ve seen so many candidates rely on Facebook, and Facebook is a good addition to a website, but it cannot carry the whole story. Same with Twitter and Instagram.

    Every campaign staff should employ an editor–even if only on a part-time basis. It would save everyone a lot of time, trouble, and money. Editors look at copy differently from the way other people see it–they are, for example, apt to spot inconsistencies in contact information. Nothing should be posted or mailed out until it has been skimmed by an editor.

    • #2
  3. DialMforMurder Member
    DialMforMurder
    @DialMforMurder

    I differ from the above comments. It sounds too much like “conservatives must try to look cool to tap into the next generation”.

    IMO, part of conservativisms’ appeal is its unwillingness to go all in for fads. People come to the right, generally, after they have had enough of the left, and they come despite the whole culture telling them not to.

    The left tries to actively seek out fresh meat, turning the politically and historically ignorant into lefties. I don’t see that ever working with the right.

    Let’s take Trump, and leaving aside if he is conservative or not and blah blah. He has nevertheless succeeded so far in building the perception that he is the most right-wing and patriotic candidate. How has he done this? He does make heavy use of Twitter but I wouldn’t say he appears any more savvy in social-media as the next guy. He just gives a clear and simple message that people can understand. And lots of emotion.

    His media campaign has been an inverted one. I disagree with the argument that the media give him a pass. It looks like he has had the most hostile coverage of any candidate. In fact he is being attacked from both sides. From both mainstream and social media. And yet he’s winning the GOP race, and possibly may win the election.

    Say what you think in terms ordinary people can relate to. The medium is not the issue.

    • #3
  4. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    DialMforMurder: Say what you think in terms ordinary people can relate to. The medium is not the issue.

    I agree with this completely.

    However, there is, in my opinion, a great deal of wisdom in the original post for most candidates and elected officials too. It’s important for them to keep in touch with their voters or constituents, and these social media platforms make that easy and possible.

    Trump is a different case because he was a brand before he ran. I didn’t know anything about him, but I had heard of him for years. As had everyone else. It would be like Martha Stewart’s running for office.

    Half the work for candidates is getting name recognition. Donald Trump was already there before he even started.

    • #4
  5. DialMforMurder Member
    DialMforMurder
    @DialMforMurder

    Half the work for candidates is getting name recognition. Donald Trump was already there before he even started.

    Fair point, which makes me wonder, what’s the bet that every Republican politician after this year is going to do their own reality TV show?

    I’d say the name recognition was his platform, but the controversy of his opinions was his fuel. If he had copied Jeb Bush’s policies and campaigning he would’ve ended up the same way.

    • #5
  6. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    DialMforMurder: I’d say the name recognition was his platform, but the controversy of his opinions was his fuel.

    I agree.

    • #6
  7. Dean Ouellette Member
    Dean Ouellette
    @DeanOuellette

    anonymous:United States—loser country.

    Sad!

    Thanks for adding so much to the conversation :) Enjoy your Good Friday

    • #7
  8. Dean Ouellette Member
    Dean Ouellette
    @DeanOuellette

    Tim H.:That’s interesting advice. I am not on Instagram or Snapchat, but I use Facebook and Twitter. Though it’s not a campaign account, I follow the local university president on Twitter, and for an official like that, it seems pretty similar to a politician’s account. I had expected information about what was happening at the university, but I was surprised that what was posted was actually very dull and not informative. The posts are usually things like “Proud to speak to the local Rotary Club.” I’d prefer to hear some ideas and opinions, even if they’re not controversial ones. Something informative and useful. The same goes for politicians. I follow the accounts because I want to learn things.

    I hear you Tim. Sometimes they just look at the easy route, and that is easy instead of really engaging and educating.

    • #8
  9. Dean Ouellette Member
    Dean Ouellette
    @DeanOuellette

    MarciN:Candidates should hire professionals to get them started on these platforms.

    One thing that I think needs to be stressed is that every politician and candidate and business should have his or her own comprehensive website. Everything should be sent out from there. I’ve seen so many candidates rely on Facebook, and Facebook is a good addition to a website, but it cannot carry the whole story. Same with Twitter and Instagram.

    Every campaign staff should employ an editor–even if only on a part-time basis. It would save everyone a lot of time, trouble, and money. Editors look at copy differently from the way other people see it–they are, for example, apt to spot inconsistencies in contact information. Nothing should be posted or mailed out until it has been skimmed by an editor.

    I couldn’t agree more. Candidates can do some when they want to, but someone should be coming up with a professional strategy for the campaign and making sure there is a plan in place every week that is being implemented. When that doesn’t happen, we get what we are getting on Social Media these days.

    • #9
  10. Dean Ouellette Member
    Dean Ouellette
    @DeanOuellette

    DialMforMurder: I differ from the above comments. It sounds too much like “conservatives must try to look cool to tap into the next generation”.

    I completely understand what you are saying. I am not saying be hip and cool. What I am saying is let people know you are a person and this is a great way to do it.

    I have worked for many conservatives who are great people. Just because they are conservative in their policy does not mean they are not great people. They all go out and meet with people around town. They have families they love.

    Why not show that? The public is going to vote for someone they know, like and trust to do what they voter wants. If you have Candidate Sue who is great on policy and is giving you a real sense of who she is and what the campaign does daily behind the scenes, there is an opportunity to take those people who are supporting and make them raving fans.

    • #10

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