It envelopes our families, our friends, our news, and our lives in general. So it’s hard to imagine that less than 20 years ago, ‘social media’ would’ve been a foreign term to the vast majority of Americans, including those regularly plugged into to the Internet. Back before membership dwarfed the population of some countries, connecting to a friend online was just a novelty.
Lately, as people have begun to rely on social media platforms for pertinent information, news sources and businesses have made social media presence a necessary aspect of the job. Keeping up with the competition means chasing after every Like, Share, Favorite and Retweet – not just for individuals, but also for campaigns.
Without undermining the importance of in-person contacts and direct mail, social media gives campaigns the opportunity to spread beyond known or intended audiences, as the majority of people who see your page’s posts are likely not directly connected with it.
How a campaign conducts itself on social media, however, is just as important as having a presence at all. Treat your online presence as you would any other campaign communication; the overall messaging a campaign employs must be carefully determined and strategically consistent across platforms.
Perhaps most important, choose your battles carefully and avoid posturing. Social media provides a degree of anonymity for private citizens, allowing them to say almost anything they wish with little consequence. Public figures risk a great deal more, as anything they communicate online can be used against them as effectively as any other issued statement.
Like everything else in a campaign, an effective messaging strategy is about how you spend your time and resources. Pick your messaging deliberately, engage positively, invest in activities that increase your name recognition, and minimize the risk of being caught in a lose-lose scenario.
Remember that social media messaging is part of a larger campaign strategy. It’s simply one of many tools that should be employed to help you enhance your image and achieve your goals.
About the author: Steve Heikkinen serves as the Communications and Marketing Strategist for Grassroots Midwest, Michigan’s only bipartisan political advocacy firm.