by Eric Layland on January 18, 2012
Getting Your (Political) Message Out, Then & Now
Running for political office has always been about spreading your message to the widest audience. The candidate with the ability to reach the greater number of constituents would have the advantage of being able to gather more supporters, thus – in theory – leading to a higher percentage of voters supporting him or her on Election Day.
Not that long ago this outreach effort was all about television commercials and radio ads. It didn’t matter if you were running for state assembly, governor or even President of the United States—if you didn’t have a media plan that involved mass marketing, you cut your chances of being elected down to nearly zero.
How the times have changed. With explosion of the Internet and the advent of social media networks, Facebook pages, Google+ and Twitter profiles and a slew of other online forums and communities have become the least costly, most effective and also most efficient way to spread a candidate’s message.
Candidate Barack Obama used social media very effectively in his 2008 election campaign. His success was not lost on politicians. Almost all are using social media to some extent, but not everyone is doing it effectively. A poorly managed social media strategy can do more harm than good.
We decided to evaluate the current race for Washington State governor in which Democratic Representative Jay Inslee is running against Republican Attorney General Rob McKenna. (Full disclosure – we’re all Dems here and rooting for Jay Inslee.) We got worried when we took a closer look. To borrow an overused cliché, a picture is worth a 1000 words (especially one chock full of data), so we created an infographic comparing the digital marketing efforts of Inslee and McKenna.
Results: McKenna Stronger than Inslee on Social Media
When it comes to social networks like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+, there is a clear line that divides these candidates. McKenna is an active participant on all of these networks, averaging 500 LinkedIn connections, 82 Google+ followers, 19 YouTube subscribers and nearly 13,000 Facebook fans. Meanwhile, Inslee has also adopted a social media policy, though it is not nearly as extensive. Inslee has just eight YouTube subscribers and no LinkedIn or Google+ followers. He relies mainly on Facebook and Twitter to communicate his messages, although he still falls behind in tweets, with just 61 to McKenna’s 119.
Social media is wildly important when spreading key messages because it’s all about connectivity. For every post on Facebook or Twitter, a person is opening the conversation up to an exponential number of people who haven’t yet had the chance to join in. For example, let’s pretend that every Twitter post is seen by three new people. Even though McKenna and Inslee will still have the same ratio of posts, the number of people their messages reach begins to differ greatly, especially if those new people decide to spread the word to three others. For McKenna, 119 people soon becomes over a million, while for Inslee, 61 people becomes just over 225,000. The difference is staggering.
However, social media is more than just a one-way tool these days. In fact, it offers candidates something that they’ve never been able to achieve: two-way communication on a massive scale. This has also been a key component in McKenna’s social media campaign that has put him at a clear advantage. Not only does he interact on Facebook more frequently than his competitor, but he also operates a blog that is updated weekly and elicits comments and questions. By keeping the lines of communication open with his followers, McKenna is able to solidify his standing with those who support him.
Welcome to 2012 – Elections in the Era of Twitter, Facebook & Google +
It’s clear that social media is the key to campaigning on a massive scale. Facebook posts are the new fireside chats, tweets are the new bumper stickers, and a candidate’s LinkedIn profile is a billboard for all to see his/her credentials. If he lacks any one of these, he risks losing out on hundreds of thousands of followers! The example of McKenna and Inslee may be a small-scale representation of how presidential candidates have begun to utilize these new mediums, but regardless, the method and the message remain the same: those who master social media can win the support of the majority.
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