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10 Ways Twitter Boosts Political Campaigns

by Zach Green on November 19, 2011

in Campaign Strategy,Twitter Campaigns,Twitter Consulting

With Twitter spurring political upheavals across the globe, it would be naïve to entertain the notion that this new medium for mass social communication won’t fundamentally alter the political process here in the United States. Yet most political campaigns, which spend millions on television and online advertising, have failed to invest in the platform beyond directing staff to send occasional tweets. Twitter is far more cost effective than television and print ads, but don’t think for a second it should be free. When leveraged fully, Twitter becomes your single most powerful tool in this era of new media campaigning. Here are ten reasons why:

1. Builds Buzz Outside Mainstream Media
News outlets have the annoying inability to focus on more than a single story at a time, so if you aren’t the story of the week, chances are you won’t be a story at all. Twitter doesn’t have producers, facilitators, or executives to silence you, and thanks to it’s virality, the only limit to your reach is your messaging strategy. Tweets also bypass the various spokespeople, reporters, pundits, and partisans that can change your intent or cloud your message. If you’re an underdog struggling to get noticed, Twitter is the the best means to be heard and build public support.

2. Increases Exposure Within Mainstream Media
Reporters and journalists love Twitter. Tweets make perfect sound-bites to place in stories, and a real zinger can land you right in the studio. The greatest exposure GOP presidential candidate Jon Huntsman ever experienced came from a well-timed tweet that jabbed his opponent. He made every major media outlet for a week as his tweet kept paying off.

3. Creates Community that Cements Long Lasting Support
Media attention can be fleeting, so creating a community that energizes supporters even when you are out of the limelight is essential. Turning fans into followers is as powerful as having them sign up for an email list, with a lower barrier to entry. This is only the first step. One secret to organizing is relationships matter more than issues. I am more willing to do something when my friend is joining me than I am because I really, really believe in X-Y-Z issues. Twitter possesses a unique ability to create communities of interest that connect supporters.

4. Turns Supporters into Effective Fundraisers
Once you’ve reached new supporters and built a strong community, it’s time to turn those fans into fundraisers. That’s right, I didn’t say donations. That’s for email campaigns. On Twitter, each supporter has their own mailing list: their followers. With your direction and messaging, and perhaps an account that organizes supporters through intense engagement, each of your followers can become advocates that persuade their followers to donate. Let the people be your voice. Their reach and trust far outstrip anything you can broadcast. Campaigns in the age of new media are far more effective given this model of many small donations than relying solely on a few large donations.

5. Organizes for Collective Action Offline
Running a state, district, or local campaign, and don’t think the Twittersphere can translate into local action? Wrong. To enable grassroots organizing in the real world, location must remain the unit of action. You don’t need to search every bio, or look at every tweet for a geo-code. Start with followers of politicians in your area. If someone is following all the Democratic House Representatives in Colorado, you can guess they are a Colorado Democrat. Ask us about our lead list for Democrats in your area. Invite these likely supporters to a tweet up, where they can use a certain hashtag to talk with one another online. Once they are together, ask them to join your events offline such as a voter registration drive, phone bank, or neighborhood canvas!

6. Real-time Focus Group for Messaging
Twitter is the world’s largest, quickest focus group. Send out a bunch of tweets with different talking points, and you can quickly see what is retweeted the most. Retweets are a signal of endorsement, so highly shared talking points are likely most effective. You’ll also quickly get responses from others saying what they think. The great thing about Twitter is it’s bidirectional. You should listen even more than you talk. Or you can eavesdrop into other people’s conversations, and figure out what they’re thinking with complex sentiment analysis. Check out what we can do for you →

7. Twitter Activity Predicts Polling
You heard me. Twitter is a leading indicator of polls. Politicians will get a spike in new followers days or weeks before they see an upward shift in the polls. Downward trend lines for adding followers predict a drop in the polls. Our tracking and metrics take place in real-time so you can get the data when you need it. Know when you’re in trouble, or golden, before it’s too late!

8. Enables Quick Response to Attacks
When a gaffe happens or a potential scandal breaks, getting in front of the story can mean the difference between turning it into a non-story and ending your campaign. Pressers are long-winded affairs that take preparation and open you up to unexpected questions. Twitter both gives you control, and let’s you succinctly respond without opening yourself to mis-interpretations. It also let’s you respond to opponents quickly when they attack your positions, in a manner easily received by supporters and the press.

9. Adds a Human Touch and Accessibility
Responding directly to followers adds a human touch to campaigns that otherwise seem inaccessible. Campaign milestones can get retweeted by supporters to provide a sense of collective accomplishment and investment in the campaign’s success. Having a staff member live-tweet an event gives volunteers a sense of ownership. Sharing pictures is also a great way to provide a behind-the-scenes glimpse of a campaign. Followers who feel personally connected to a campaign will be more likely to make the leap to an offline supporter. Learn more about our messaging strategies →

10. Advertises Major Events and Appearances
Going to be on TV? Twitter is a great way to let your supporters know to tune in and fully capitalize on such events. Whether you’ll be on the radio, or giving an important speech and looking to jam the room beyond capacity, the best way to build buzz beforehand is, you got it, Twitter. One tricks is to announce a television appearance only minutes before it airs, so that people at home, sitting on their computers and in front of the TV, don’t have to rely on remembering it a couple hours in the future.

Ready to invest in Twitter? Check out our services or contact us.

Image via photologue_np.

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