by Alonso Chehade on September 12, 2011
We’ve all seen the power of the Internet during Obama’s historic campaign in 2008. Candidate Obama used social media to win hearts and minds, influencing people and attracting followers to his campaign. Since then it has become standard for political campaigns to reach out to potential donors, volunteers, and voters through social media. Candidates now realize that they can no longer ignore the power of social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter. Increasingly people of all demographic and political backgrounds congregate to consume and share information and discuss issues on social platforms. As a result, those relatively new channels can play a vital role in elections and no serious political campaign can afford to miss out on this new trend.
Here in Washington we’re already getting a taste of the no.1 gubernatorial race in the USA between Jay Inslee and Rob McKenna as they warm up their campaigns to become the next governor of the State of Washington. Currently the polls are leaning to Jay Inslee (D) leading with 47% closely followed by Rob McKenna with 44%. However after taking a look at the candidate’s social media programs I found 5 reasons why Jay Inslee should be stepping up his game on his social media programs if he wants to keep the polls leaning his way.
#1 McKenna’s campaign website has a blog
The first thing I look for when evaluating a social media program is whether the company, organization, or campaign has a blog and how often it gets updated with fresh, visitor-enticing (and search engine optimized) content. I was very surprised to find out that of the two candidates only McKenna was maintaining a blog which he regularly updates with the latest campaign news.
As I wrote in a previous article, a blog is a powerful tool to attract supporters through useful content which if integrated with a a social media campaign, can help a site rank higher in the search engines. In an election a blog is a great way to continue to shape and protect the candidate’s online reputation.
#2 If “likes” were votes then McKenna is winning the race on Facebook
I would personally consider Facebook “likes” to be a good proxy for votes. They are in fact public “digital votes”, essentially individual-level campaign endorsements, which means in that case that McKenna is leading by 818 more individual “endorsements” than Inslee. Now if the sample size would be the combined Facebook Page likes of both candidates then McKenna would be leading with 52% followed by Inslee with 48%. Not that distant from the actual results as the difference between the candidates continues to be within 3 to 4%.
#3 McKenna does a great job in making his position on key issues easily visible and media rich
As you can see below even though both candidates are using custom tabs to make it easier for their fans to donate, McKenna has one set up for “Issues”. The tab includes the candidate’s view on 3 issues that include a video presentation followed by a brief written description. This is really valuable for undecided voters looking to learn more about the candidate’s point of view while on Facebook.
#4 McKenna gets that he needs to engage his fans to win
OK, in Facebook unless you can keep new fans engaging with your page, your Page updates will not longer make it to their feeds because of Facebook EdgeRank. In the post below, not only is McKenna sharing that he is interested in his supporters’ opinion, but he is using a direct call to action by inviting them to take a survey on his site and share their thoughts on how to move forward. In Facebook this leads to comments which the post received, 24 of them, and probably also generated new traffic to his campaign’s site – smart move.
#5 Inslee is more popular but McKenna is more influential on Twitter
I used an influence metric tool to find out which candidate is doing a better job at pushing tweets to their political supporters in a manner that motivates them to share it with others. McKenna’s account is more influential because of his ability to engage other influential accounts to respond and share his content even though Inslee has more users following him on Twitter.
Social media will play a vital role in the 2012 elections. McKenna is winning with social media for now even though Inslee is leading in the polls, but as the election approaches a well-managed and focused social media effort could be what ends up separating one candidate from the other. My recommendation – it’s time for Candidate Inslee to step up his investment in social media or risk getting left in the dust.
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