NOTE: See How the Internet Saved Buddy Roemer’s Presidential Campaign, just published on Mashable. Then check out how we can boost your political campaign on Twitter.
So you want to build a campaign on Twitter for your non-profit, political candidate, or business. Our specialty at 140elect.com is the 2012 election, with a current focus on political campaigning for Presidential Candidate Buddy Roemer. The same techniques described in the following articles have been equally effective in our efforts for non-profits and businesses, though this writing will focus on the special case of promoting a political candidate.
Chances are your candidate already has a Twitter account, and may even be building quite a following. However, there is much more to campaigning on Twitter than just improving the messaging coming out of their account. To work effectively, you need a network of coordinated accounts for the candidate, campaign, and supporters.
You might be thinking I just suggested astroturf, but you’d be wrong. We don’t engage in any “black-hat” techniques, such as building up an army of robot accounts to spam Twitter streams with messaging. We believe the most effective methods are fully open and honest, despite our time in politics! In part, that’s because Twitter is different than typical politicking. You don’t control the message. You can at best nudge it one direction or another, providing seeds upon which supporters can rally and a discussion can grow. Any attempt to deceive or game the system will be quickly detected, exposed, and turned around to destroy you. So, unless you find yourself far more clever than average bear, stick to a “white-hat” Twitter campaign.
How do you build a network of accounts on Twitter while remaining honest? There are three types of accounts you need to keep in mind: the candidate, the campaign, and supporters.
The purpose of this account is message, message, message. The candidate should be tweeting their political platform, responding to the opposition, and crafting a story for the media. This account should not be sharing every press article mentioning the candidate, giving detailed biographical information, or talking about the candidate in the third person generally. The candidate’s account is not about the candidate. It is about their message, platform, and beliefs. Stick to the message.
The purpose of this account is to boast about the candidate, organize supporters, and ask for help. This is a great place to post those press articles featuring the candidate, or talk about their history and accomplishments. While the candidate is sticking to the message, the campaign needs to promote the candidate. The campaign account should reach out to anybody that mentions, retweets, or follows the candidate. Once someone expresses interest, it is important to convert them to long-term supporters, volunteers, and fund-raisers. Most importantly, help them connect with other supporters on Twitter. Building a community is the single most powerful tool you can leverage for a successful Twitter campaign. Want to spread your message effectively? Have others do it. Creating community is the vehicle.
You might again be thinking, “you want me to create a bunch of accounts and pretend to be other people?” The answer again is a definitive no. Supporter accounts should be managed by … supporters! Chances are many supporters will be vocal already with existing Twitter accounts, willing to start a new account specifically for the campaign or looking to jump into Twitter for the first time. The campaign account should organize these volunteers, build a sense of community, and direct them to be advocates for the candidate. DMs are a great way to contact supporters privately, show recognition for the efforts, and provide messaging tips. Supporters should not be left to figure out what to do for their selves. Anyone willing to dedicate time advocating on behalf of the campaign should be connected with other supporters and organized for maximum impact. Ideally, while the campaign looks to turn interested parties into volunteers, supporters will reach out to new groups, perhaps unaware of the candidate altogether. This provides new value to supporter accounts, avoids preaching to the converted, prevents overlap with campaign efforts, and lends a boost to the candidate.
These are the three types of accounts that need to be actively managed for an effective political campaign on Twitter. If you are running a marketing campaign on Twitter, these three accounts translate into Company, Employees, and Consumers. If you are running a non-profit, the translation becomes Organization, Volunteers, Advocates. In any case, don’t start your Twitter campaign on the wrong foot by thinking it starts and ends with one account. A whole network is necessary.