The 2016 Presidential Campaign demonstrated beyond a shadow of a doubt that social media had arrived as a transformative force in all stages of campaign management. While relying on the same basic elements of traditional media, social media is turning traditional political campaigns on their heads. The old playbook for how to reach and engage an audience based on stump speeches, mailers, radio, and television ads has been largely thrown out and a new playbook is being written as we speak.
It’s important though that we resist falling into the trap of treating social media channels as equal to websites. Although web-page-like structures exist within Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, each platform’s web-page analogy engages users different. Treating social media as a web page tool is extremely limited and ineffective. It’s akin to checking the box because it’s expected that everyone have a web page, a Twitter account, and a Facebook account. Worse, if used incorrectly, social media channels can become a source of campaign pitfalls and follies that are entirely avoidable.
Don’t underestimate the power of social media. At best, a poorly crafted social media strategy means that you’ll won’t get the “lift” your campaign needs. At worst, a poorly crafted social media strategy can detail and destroy a campaign.
It’s difficult for a candidate and for his manager to coordinate a hectic campaign schedule that includes multiple appearances and speeches per day while still maintaining an active and seamless social media engagement strategy.
In traditional media, the candidate will produce a radio or television ad and then use television or radio distribution networks to reach his or her audience. The media serves as a force multiplier. The same is true for mailers.
With social media, the production effort on the part of the candidate is the same but the distribution aspect takes on complexities and subtleties that the traditional distribution via radio or television do not encounter.
The goal of effective social media across all channels should be to engage and influence:
- Publicity Media
The end goal is to persuade voters in your particular geography to vote for you while drawing in support from outside your voter area and minimizing influence of elements that are not friendly to your campaign.
The subtleties and nuances of a social media political campaign makes it very important to have a dedicated management team coordinating with a media director to help you reach your audience.
Human beings are visual, aural, and literary. Words sway campaigns. Pictures speak a thousand words and moving pictures tell stories in a way that not even the best speaker or writer can convey with words alone. Without rich multi-media content a social media strategy is effectively underwhelming and doomed.
Because distribution costs in the traditional media of radio and television tend to be high, we generally see high, but varying, production values in those media formats. As we move from regional to national markets, we see the difference in production values. A furniture store commercial produced for a local market will rarely exhibit the production values of an advertisement that is geared to the Super Bowl.
By contrast, social media does not care about production values.Where the NFL would never accept a low-quality production during the Super Bowl, no such third-party moderators exist in social media. Audiences do care about production values, but not in the same manner as a major network.. What might seem campy to one group of voters might be hard hitting to another group.
The only metric that counts in social media is whether the target audience receives the information and is compelled enough to propagate it along. We call this field “memetics,” the world of self-replicating ideas that live in people’s minds and compel us to pass them along. “Ah! vous dirais-je Maman,“ was already a French folk classic when Mozart, Liszt, and Bach borrowed the ditty to incorporate into such memorable classics like “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.” Across how many centuries has that simple melody been infiltrating our minds, self replicating, and forcing us to pass it along from parents to children? Living thought. Who doesn’t remember “Low-Energy-Jeb, Lyin-Ted, Crooked-Hillary,” or more recently, “Pajama-boy, and Pelosi’s- Puppet.” All are examples of powerful memetics at work. That’s the power of “memetics.”