Maybe in an ideal world, a candidate for election would be capable of doing all of their own posting and sharing on social media—presenting a truly authentic online version of themselves. But given the reality of modern campaigns, a candidate’s account has to be at least partially managed by their staff.
One of the major challenges is keeping true to a type of content, a voice, or a coherent strategy when multiple people are running the same account. This is where a well thought out social media content strategy can help.
This is essentially a description of what your account posts, and it’s divided into themes. Within each theme you might detail things like the resources to be dedicated to production of content, the frequency with which they are produced and shared, as well as what objective the content is working towards—critical if you are to keep your content focused. Other things that might be useful to include are the audience targeted by the content and the tone the content should strike.
From the point of view of your audience, coherence is key. Having several categories defined keeps your posts coherent and keeps you focused on the goals of your communication. It helps decide the frequency with which you discuss certain topics, and realise when you have been pushing one angle too much. It can also be a guide in mixing up formats (e.g. video, long form, photo).
Internally it helps with planning, indicating the amount of resources and effort to direct to a piece of content. It is useful when delegating work too, allowing your team to schedule and prioritise more effectively, as well as giving useful guidelines on things like tone and audience.
It can be useful for brainstorming content with your team and wider support system. Even those who are not as proficient with social media will know what you mean when you need a local story or an example of mobilisation. It can also be useful for reflecting on how your posts perform, what your audience prefers to hear about, and where you are having an impact.
What does a content strategy look like?
Below is a sample outline of a content strategy for a Member of the European Parliament (MEP) in the upcoming EU elections. The strategy is designed as a scale. Content lower on the scale goes out regularly and is easy to produce, but has a short lifespan. Content higher up takes more time to create, but can often be recycled.
1. Updates and curated content In terms of original content, this category involves sharing news mentions and new information from the campaign trail. It also means reacting to current events and news from the perspective of the candidate. When it comes to shared content, it includes posts expressing support or criticising your opposition, especially from the press and key influencers.
- Campaign objectives: Create a sense of social proof by showing that your campaign has momentum and supporters.
- Social media objective: Keep a flow of updates and reactions so people visit the page to get news.
2. Appreciation posts. This category covers shout-outs to organisations, businesses and volunteers supporting your campaign, including constituency group visits to the European Parliament. For this content to be a success, tag the correct accounts with tailored messages.
- Campaign objectives: Thank people for the support and follow up on personal interactions. Social media posts can act as a memento, as well as a way to solidify personal connections from a distance.
- Social media objective: Expand your following by reaching out into the audiences of the people you have met or organisations you have visited.
3. Mobilising content. These posts should be a balance of both motivating people to join your campaign (e.g. vote for me because I care about the issues you do) and explaining the different ways they can get involved (e.g. canvass, make posts on social media, volunteer at my office).
- Campaign objectives: Getting the people you need to canvass, advocate, and offer their time and skills to support you.
- Social media objectives: Engage with your audience to turn them from passive “receivers” of information to actively sharing and creating content.
4. Lobbying and advocacy. With these posts you highlight and support the organisations you care about. Especially so when they are relevant to your work as an MEP, but not necessarily every time. Social media offers the opportunity to give people a sense of your personality behind the scenes too. This includes past advocacy and highlighting your track record.
- Campaign objectives: Highlight the type of work people can expect from you if elected.
- Social media objectives: Make connections with the followers of the organisations that can expect your support. Engage with them, answer their questions, and highlight the problems you could solve for them.
5. Local stories and impact posts. This category focuses on your constituency connections and the practical difference you make in people’s lives. If not an incumbent, you could highlight the shortcomings of your opponent and explain how you would do better. This is especially important to do from an EU level, where politicians and policies can often feel distant.
- Campaign objectives: Create connections and share a vision for the future with your local constituency.
- Social media objectives: Increase engagement by presenting your audience with content that is relevant and familiar to them.
6. Targeted messaging. This category takes research, time and effort, but can be regularly recycled after. By creating content specific to key constituencies, not only do you have videos, visuals and other content to share and tag them in, but you have posts that can be recycled at events, on key occasions, and to share with advocates.
- Campaign objectives: Persuade critical swing constituencies by speaking their language and showing you care about their issues.
- Social media objectives: Increase followers and engagement by reaching into key conversations, intervening at critical moments, and engaging with influencers with highly specialised content.
Every communication strategy starts with the question, “How will communications help me achieve my objectives?” Everything you do in terms of your communications should be feeding back into your overall objective—getting your candidate elected.
A content strategy is about more than objectives however—it is as personal as a handshake or a speech. This is why your candidate’s involvement in developing your content strategy is key.
Social media is all about authenticity. It’s not just about completing objectives, but about doing it in a way that the audience can see your candidate’s fingerprints—reaching out in the way they would reach out. A carefully crafted content strategy will allow you to preserve that authenticity, even when sharing the workload.
Tom Moylan is a political communications specialist currently working as a speechwriter in Brussels. He writes and thinks on social media and strategic communications at large. Follow him on Twitter @moylato