This is a guest post from Ben Donahower. Ben is an experienced campaign operative who has worked on small town mayor races to presidentials and everything in between. You can connect with Ben at his blog, Campaign Trail Yard Signs.
When people think about endorsements, they commonly picture high profile or celebrity endorsements that include press conferences, rallies, and other fanfare, but an endorsement is nothing more than publicly supporting a candidate. Endorsements on Twitter using just 140 character or less can benefit campaigns if they leverage them to expand their campaign’s reach.
Gathering Grassroots Endorsements
The most effective method to gather endorsements on Twitter is to engage. The more engagement you have on Twitter the more relevant followers you will have and the more endorsements you will accrue through interactions. You can find these endorsements in two ways:
Saved searches: search for the candidate and opponent’s name, relevant hashtags, and other terms that identify the race, and save them. Regularly check these saved searches for tweets that indicate endorsement.
Replies: look for endorsements in unsolicited replies from followers and others on Twitter along with replies to your tweets or conversations with others on Twitter. Many of these tweets are public declarations of support.
Direct messages, however, are private, so the campaign should not consider them endorsements. The campaign should encourage the person to make their support public, but you will do more harm than good by considering these private communications endorsements. There are many cases where campaigns have prematurely announced endorsements and lost support.
Soliciting Endorsements on Twitter
Campaigns should also strategically reach out. Twitter is a deceptively effective platform to get public support from business and community leaders, because it is short form and a low friction means of communication. A campaign could get a quick endorsement without having to get on the phone or holding an person meeting, saving time and effort.
Outreach starts with creating a private list of people that the campaign is targeting. Add business, community, political, and religious leaders to the list. This list is important because it makes it easy for the campaign to interact with targeted people before asking for the endorsement, and it will help the campaign track its progress getting endorsements. Simply remove people who have endorsed the candidate from the list, or if you would like to leave these leaders on the list to interact with throughout the campaign, create a Google doc or use another app to track the campaign’s progress.
Capitalizing on Twitter Endorsements
Endorsements are only useful to campaigns if they can leverage them to increase awareness for the candidate, raise money, or get more volunteers. Here are some ways to capitalize:
- Take the campaign’s list of citizen endorsements on Twitter and hold a press conference listing the names and have one of them speak on behalf of the people who have publicly supported the candidate on Twitter.
- Ask business leaders to hold a tweetup to benefit the campaign.
- Don’t forget, every retweet increases awareness in your campaign. Retweet endorsements and ask others to as well.
Endorsements are a great reason to talk about issues. The campaign could use an endorsement from a labor leader, for example, as a means to earn media related labor issues or spread the candidate’s stance on those issues through other channels.
Thinking about Endorsements Differently
In the age of social media, campaigns need to think about endorsements differently. Endorsements are simply a public declaration of support from anyone. Endorsements are only effective as a means to an end whether that’s earned media, contributions, or other campaign resources. Finally, any endorsement can matter. Average voters are able to communicate with hundreds of people, and so, now the public support of the neighbor on Twitter can raise awareness for the campaign just the same as only high profile endorsements were able to do in the past.