Supporters Are Reporters: Harnessing Social Media During an Election Season

October 28th, 2010
Author: Hailey

I personally believe that every brand (be it a consumer brand, b2b, cause, movement, politician, etc.) needs a social media strategy. Whether it’s on a small scale and consists only of active listening, or on a large scale with serious strategy, weighed tactics, targeted content – your brand needs social media.

Politicians are a brand and they need social media, too. Why? Because supporters are reporters. According to a Pew Internet Research Survey online politicking translates into offline activism. Another Pew survey showed that 1 in 3 internet users disseminates political information via social media platforms. And it’s conventional wisdom that people trust the information delivered by their friends online – opening the potential nexus for a candidate even further.

If you need another reason why a political campaign needs an online presence, how about this: 130,048,500 US Facebook users are voting-age eligible [source]. There are 230,782,870 voting-age eligible people in the US [source]. While this means that 56% of the voting-age eligible population is on Facebook, what it really means is that campaigning needs to be online and it needs to be done right.

For the most part, a social media strategy can be approached with similar tactics a political campaign would utilize for a traditional media strategy. As with everything, there are pros and cons to both, and in no way should a social media strategy take the place of a traditional media strategy – at least not yet.


Any political operative can tell you that the national committees’ databases are not always up-to-date or the most reliable when it comes to microtargeting. Yes, the data is improving, but there is even more data available online. Facebook, for example, allows you to advertise to very specific people. If your goal is to reach out to loyal voters, who are female, live in a suburb, are fans of the DNC  and are ages 25-34 you can do that. The targeting can be so specific, that a campaign could indicate a voter who is employed by a certain type of company, is married and has three children. And above all, it is cheap.

Crisis Communications

During campaign season there is always a crisis. The candidate makes a gaffe, a staffer slips up, a spouse says something off the cuff to a reporter. Social media platforms allow a campaign to quickly snuff out a problem before it turns into a week’s worth of the broadcast and print news cycle. A campaign is able to jump on Facebook or Twitter and rectify a situation before too many supporters have heard about it. After all, supporters are reporters – so nip it in the bud before they jump ship or spread the news to their network.


Yes, I know it’s the 2008 buzzword, but it seems that now more than ever voters want transparency. They want to know what the candidates really think and why. Voters want to know why a candidate flips on an issue. They want straight answers. They want to know where the money is going. It’s important, as with any brand or campaign, to remain transparent to your followers. If there is a problem, you say, “yes, we know there is a problem and this is what we’re doing to fix the situation.” You’ll also want to make sure that it is clear who is delivering the message on your chosen platforms, especially when it is not the candidate themselves.  Be upfront and they’ll keep coming back for more.

Sell It

Take coca-cola for example. People who love coca-cola aren’t going to buy another brand, they’re going to buy coca-cola. But coca-cola still has to sell it to their loyalists, and so does a candidate and elected official. So sell it. I’m not advocating for pandering to a certain group of people, and just telling them whatever they want to hear, ultimately resulting in false and empty promises. But you have to give people a reason to decide to like you, to leave their house and vote for you, and ultimately to keep coming back for more. Think about the people you want to bring in as supporters and keep those that are loyalists interested in what you have to say.

Get Out The Vote – GOTV

A campaign’s social media strategy needs to be included in a campaign’s overall GOTV efforts. Are you shuttling people to the polls? Tell them where they can get more information. Is it the last day to register to vote? Make sure your supporters know where they can go to register.

Unique Content

Yes, you want to do something differently than your opponent. But you should also include content that is unique to your campaign and your traditional media efforts. Include videos, live interviews with the candidate, audio clips and even unaired TV spots. Remember that voters are inundated with your mailers and TV ads and radio ads. The last thing you want to do is feed them updates with the same content. Sure, include all of your ads on YouTube, but when it comes to a platform on which you wholeheartedly engage with your supporters be sure to reward them with something new.

Staff It

To execute a political social media strategy it has to be staffed well. You want someone who understands the candidate, the themes of the campaigns, the issues and talking points for the campaign. Above all you want someone who understands social media and what is appropriate and inappropriate to say. This person will need to advise the full communications staff and will also need to know how to handle a fire when one breaks out. Your supporters will also want, and therefore expect, that when they comment on a Facebook page or Tweet a candidate that they are given a prompt and helpful response. Make sure your platforms are manned at all times and your supporters acknowledged.

There is a lot to consider when it comes to a political social media strategy, and certainly more than I’ve laid out here. I think that every candidate from the local to the federal level should get into the game online and engage with their audience because it really comes down to your supporters are reporters. They expect to be able to get your campaign news and information and the candidate’s views on Facebook and Twitter. Voters are out there waiting to consume your content, so go to them. Supporters disseminate your campaign news online, they advocate for you online, they bring you new supporters, and they all cash in for you on election day at the polls.

From Billboards to Business Cards

August 11th, 2010
Author: lindsey

Although they have existed for quite some time, QR codes are really beginning to take off.  They are more apparent now than ever appearing on a variety of everyday items. The QR or “Quick Response” code allows a person to scan in order to learn more about a company, person or product.  Rather than having tons of small text, if someone is interested in learning more, they can just scan and read on!

My first interaction with the strange-looking square was while flying on a family vacation.  My father handed the man his smartphone instead of passing off five different papers to the gate attendant.  The initial thought that went through my mind was “wow, I can’t believe there is such a thing! This is definitely a way of showing how our world is becoming more environmentally aware.”   About a year or so later, I realize it was much more than that.

A few months ago, a billboard was put on display in New York with a giant QR code that really turned heads.  On the bottom corner of the billboard, the Calvin Klein Jeans logo was apparent.  Most people would assume that the code would bring them to the website in order to purchase jeans.   Instead, a very sexual video appears with models who are wearing jeans.  This billboard has created quite the debate.  If the passerby wanted to learn more or find out what it was all about, they had the opportunity to do so.

Some companies are using QR’s to help simplify tasks.  Ikea has pitched that they may have a video with QR codes to go along in order to put together furniture.  Reading a manual is time consuming and often confusing, but instead, people can scan in order to move ahead in the video or maybe even scan the actual product itself.

The corporate world has also begun to use QR codes.  At meetings or conferences, one often obtains a handful of business cards and later, enters in all of the information.  Recently, we’ve seen people putting QR codes on their business cards so that others can scan the contact information right into his or her smartphone.  It can even incorporate links to social media sites.

Appearing on soda bottles, airplane tickets, billboards and business cards, QR codes have been effectively put to use.  I’m interested to see what other ways they will be used.  I would like to see a QR contest held sometime in the near future.

When have you used QR codes before?

Links of the Week: July 16th Edition

July 16th, 2010
Author: Meghan Butler

Old Spice Man: Smells Like a Viral Win

The online world has been abuzz this week with the release of videos by The OldSpice Man. This viral sensation started out as video advertisement released via YouTube – something that is fairly common nowadays – but the brand kicked it up a notched by not only creating a fantastically interactive Twitter account, but also creating personalized videos for Tweeting celebrities and common folk alike.


Advertising That’s QR Code Friendly

Calvin Klein has introduced a new billboard to the Houston Street area containing a large QR code that encourages passerbys to “get uncensored” and scan the code for a video. There are mixed feelings on the billboard – QR code usage is relatively low so the effectiveness of the ad is in question, however, there is no doubt that this may be the beginning of a trend in advertising.


The Social Network Has Arrived

The first trailer for The Social Network – a movie about the rise and early days of Facebook – has been released.  The trailers gives just enough to entice the audience without being a full-on preview. The social media space is waiting for the premiere with high anticipation.


Hearst and Zinio Push the iPad

Hearst, a competitor of COnde Nast, has teamed with Zinio – an app newsstand proprietor – to release digital versions of several of their publications includiung Seventeen, Esquire, Cosmopolitan and Harper’s Bazaar. Hearst also plans to leverage Oprah’s magazine and status to increase app usage by allowing readers of Oprah’s powerful book club to read the club’s selections on the iPad.

Links of the Week: July 9th Edition

July 9th, 2010
Author: Meghan Butler

A Truce Between Google and China?

China has renewed Google’s ICP license. This is the rights that are needed to host a site on it’s own domain. After a struggle, the government and Google were able to come to an agreement. it’s still  unclear whether Google will be responsible for full hosting or if they will be redirecting some of the hosting duties to the Hong Kong servers.

Conde Nast Traveller Joins the iPhone App Movement

Conde Nast seems to be adapting to the use of digital media with several of their publications. Wired has been released on the iPad and different fashion-related iPhone applications have been put out by Vogue. Most recently Conde Nast Traveller has released an application that provides “City Guides” for four cities: Barcelona, New York, Paris and Rome. Each city is a separate application and they cost $9.99 each.

Ford Works with RIM to Curb Texting-While-Driving Violations

Ford Motor Company is preparing updates to its SYNC Technology that will include audible text messaging. RIM will be implementing their MAP (Message Access Profile) on new BlackBerry devices. This means the first users of this technology will be BlackBerry users.

LeBron James Gains over 100K Followers in 7 Hours

The basketball superstar has been in the news often these past few weeks as speculation as to his next move flew. He ultimately decided to go to the Miami Heat but during the flurry of coverage, the NBA star joined Twitter as @KingJames and gained over 150,000 followers in less than 8 hours.

A Face in the Crowd

July 7th, 2010
Author: lindsey

Just a few weeks ago, we came across this idea of “writing your own headline” from Nike.  People tweet a headline using hash tags and 100 per night are broadcasted in Johannesburg.  Now, back in the United States, we are seeing the concept of broadcasting tweets being brought to the next level.  Times Square has made a big new friend who loves to play around with the public.

In honor of the launch of its Times Square store, Forever21 has created an interactive board using high-tech surveillance equipment and computer vision technology as a virtual model plays with the crowd below.  The model can pick up onlookers and either kiss them, turn them into a frog, put them in her shopping bag or take a picture of the entire crowd.  Using the high-tech equipment, the models are able to spot those people in the crowd carrying a yellow Forever21 bag and are more likely to pick those people up.

Along with the on-screen virtual model, there are also tweets broadcasted the way that Nike is doing in Johannesburg.  Tweets including #love and #forever21 are placed on the large screen for all of Times Square to read.  In 2009, “The Hand From Above” was a giant hand on a screen created to interact with the crowd.  This tactic builds awareness and encourages interaction and participation.  The Forever21 Billboard takes virtual crowds and physical crowds and interacts on both ends.  It’s amazing to see how social media has become more mainstream than ever. The billboard is a clever advertisement and offers a new experience every visit!