A campaign’s digital launch is a tough task. Establishing a social media presence, in particular, can be difficult. In fact, it’s the piece that candidates are most likely to get tunnel vision on. Facebook friends and Twitter followers mean banked votes, right? Not even close.
You might be lucky and your candidate already has active social media accounts. If so, how do you reshape and relaunch them? Otherwise, what do you do if you’re starting from scratch?
Start With Facebook
Does your candidate have a personal profile? Are they willing to have the content wiped out and converted to a campaign page? If they want to take the plunge, this is a great way to get a jump start on building an audience – and also clearing out any older controversial content in one fell swoop.
If they have a personal profile, but aren’t willing to convert it to a page, then you’ll want to talk through privacy settings. Make sure they’re only putting non-controversial content out, and consider allowing followers on their profile, too. But in general, assume that anything on social media has the potential to go very public, whether it’s privacy locked or not.
Do they have an old page from a previous campaign? You may be able to change the page name and username/URL. Still, keep in mind that you should never assume it’s possible to make changes. Facebook frequently change its policies on this. So it’s far better to set up your Facebook page to something titled with a generic URL.
If they won’t convert a profile or don’t have a page, here are some free and cheap methods to build your audience.
1. Use the “Suggest Page” option to upload an email list of your supporters and automatically suggest the page to them via Facebook. If they’re not on Facebook, they will not see your suggestion.
2. Send an email to your list and ask people to follow you on social media. Note that a large chunk of your list won’t be social media users, so if you have the ability to filter those out with your CRM or a tool like attentive.ly you should do so.
3. Once you’ve maximized the free followers, you may want to do some cheap geo-targeted Facebook ads to boost your supporter base in your district. You can limit by zip code, political party, et cetera, so you’re only talking to your preferred audience.
4. If any of your posts go viral there’s a new trick you can use. Click on the number of people who liked the post (directly underneath the post). A window will open up, showing you all the people who liked the post. If any of them are not fans of your page, you’ll see the option to invite them to be fans. Especially if you paid to boost a post, this is how to get some of those paid likes to become fans.
Building Your Twitter Presence
- Make sure you’re following all the reporters and other elected officials in your district or state. Hopefully some will follow you back.
- Pay attention to who likes and retweets your content, and follow them (they’ll hopefully follow back).
- Send an email to your list asking them to become social media followers, but it’s especially important to be aware than 20 percent or less of your list is likely on Twitter.
- Upload your list of supporters to Twitter and follow them in the hope they’ll follow you back. Note that you can’t directly upload a CSV unlike Facebook, but you could upload a CSV to a campaign gmail account’s address book and go from there.
- Figure out who the influencers are in your state, and follow those people. You can search on hashtags like #mileg or #flleg for example to see who’s tweeting about state legislative issues in your state.
- In general, if you’re a Democratic campaign, you may want to follow some of the major #uniteblue tweeters – and they will hopefully follow back. If you’re a Republican campaign, you’ll want to look for the #tcot tweeters. There’s a nifty tool called Tweepi that may help. You can use it to automatically follow the people that another account follows. Start with the state party and some of the members of Congress in your state and follow everybody that they follow.
- I would not suggest doing ads on Twitter if you have a limited budget or are anything less than a statewide race. The density in smaller areas is not there so you’re likely to pay a lot more per follower. If you have extra funds, Google ads would be a wiser use of your digital budget.
Note that these tips are about how to increase your numbers to improve your campaign’s credibility at or around launch. Actually getting your content seen by supporters is a different problem than vanity likes.
Now, I’m only covering Facebook and Twitter. There’s a plethora of social media tools out there. But if your campaign is just launching, focus on where the largest audiences are and do them well. Be careful not to overextend your campaign resources if you don’t have a full digital team to do the maintenance.
Laura Packard is a partner at PowerThru Consulting, a Democratic digital strategy and web development firm. Follow her on Facebook (facebook.com/lpackard) and Twitter @lpackard.