When Twitter banned political ads recently, consultants had mixed reactions, ranging from kudos to dismissal of what they perceived as nothing more than a PR stunt. Whatever your view, any campaign or consultant who was planning to use Twitter ads will now have to figure out how to advance their narratives on the platform without paying for it.
One solution we're advocating for is building and deploying online communities of real human supporters who can help make up for lost paid reach. If you’re a consultant, here’s what you need to advise your campaign to do next:
- Draw your supporters into your digital community.
- Start creating badass content that is actually worthy of being shared.
- Get ready to activate your supporters in key moments.
Here’s how the winners are going to play this out in real life:
When a candidate drops a clever line at a debate, you can bet that their teams will be waiting to cut, remix, and share that video to their online base. Those supporters will choose their favorite clips and share on Twitter and other social platforms, organically and in real-time.
What this looks like on a national scale: a deluge of tweets flooding voters’ feeds. Just moments after said candidate drops the mic, any individual scrolling Twitter see these video clips shared by not one, not two, but a dozen real people they know. Offline moments are transformed into online traction in an instant.
Following a similar strategy, this army of tweeters will transform how campaigns respond to major news stories. By entrusting and empowering their supporters to act as brand ambassadors, campaigns will be able to quickly distribute messaging, ensuring their “rapid response” strategies involve the many, not the few. In the absence of a way to pay for attention on Twitter, engaged online supporters will be the only way to shape these narratives.
It's worth remembering that real people aren’t bots, and they won’t mindlessly share content like they are. So how do campaigns successfully keep their supporters engaged throughout a long and exhausting cycle?
It starts by bringing supporters together in a digital hub, where they can connect directly with campaign organizers and other supporters. This relationship can start in a few different ways. It can begin with a mass email or text soliciting interest, or with a personal ask from an organizer to a volunteer.
Bringing these supporters into the fold, understanding their motivations, ensuring they know they are an integral part of success in something bigger than themselves is the most crucial step. As any salesperson will tell you, success is built on relationships.
Once that relationship has been established, a campaign needs to provide their supporters with a steady stream of content worth sharing. That stream needs to come with two things. The first is messaging to explain and frame it to their supporter. The second is a mobile-friendly preview, so supporters can see what they’re being asked to share.
Video, memes and topics that are exciting, funny, urgent. Not all campaigns are good predictors of viral-worthy content. At our firm, some of the campaigns that use our digital organizing app are surprised to learn which pieces of content were the most popular among their supporters. For instance, some of the most popular content has been the most somber, while some of it has been humorous. What matters most is that supporters feel an earnest connection with the message.
To make this online relational organizing strategy work on Twitter, campaigns will need a few things unique to the platform. The first is a set of hashtags to associate with their content. The second is to focus on content that lets supporters affirm their identity. This is because not everything that works well on social media on a candidate’s page is actually suitable for sharing among their supporters.
Finally, because not everything suitable for sharing among supporters is ideal for a candidate’s primary Twitter account, owning multiple accounts to source content from will be valuable. These accounts can and should include the candidate’s branding and sincerely attest to their ownership by the campaign, but can better host messaging designed to be shared.
It’s not surprising that when supporters share out content, their friends pay attention. Just like everything else in life, like the restaurants we try and movies we see, we are much more likely to listen to someone we know over an advertisement.
This shift in voters’ trust away from the top and towards people they actually know has been happening for years. But Twitter’s decision to ban political advertising is the beginning of a landslide that, for campaigns, will make leveraging the social trust of their existing supporters the most crucial strategy for success in 2020.
Jordan Birnholtz is the Co-Founder and Chief Product Officer of The Tuesday Company.