Social Media a Frontrunner in Election Strategy

guy stands out on ledge

Adam Levy
Account Manager / Special Projects
6P Marketing

Social Media - Nenshi for Mayor!One needs to look no further than their own computer or mobile device for a tool which is proving to be one of the most-effective tools in the campaigner’s arsenal: social media.

Bold election statements promising hope and change, and a strong social media strategy backed by a youthful community have proven to tip the scales for the candidates that seek to utilize them.

The first time we witnessed this was during Barack Obama’s presidential campaign and, more recently, in Naheed Nenshi’s municipal election victory in Calgary. A month prior to election, few could have predicted that Nenshi would have become such a formidable opponent. But, when all was said and done, Nenshi bested his competitors and finished with a 27,000 vote lead over the next candidate. What transformations are taking place on the political landscape that will apply to future elections? What lessons can be gleaned from this?

In addition to the points I addressed in my last article on social media, below are a few key strategies that you can employ to increase your voter share the next time we head to the ballot box. If you are not in politics, please note that the lessons in this article are applicable to the business world as a whole.

Be a frontrunner in the social media revolution
Gone are the days where the candidate who has the largest marketing budgets wins. Now, it’s not how big your bank account is, but how many people “Like” you on Facebook, how many followers you have on Twitter or how many people have your app installed on their iPods and iPhones. People support candidates because they want to make a difference. Let your voters know that they are part of a movement, a movement that can make a difference. There is no better way to do that than social media. Engaging voters online and community building will result in action offline—and results.

Have a clear, targeted message
What worked for Obama worked for Nenshi: Understanding the recent shift in voter demographics. Nenshi mirrored Obama’s strategy of mobilizing young and disaffected centres to head to the polls and take action. “Don’t like the status quo? Change it, because you have the power to” was the call to action, the shot in the arm that made young people wake up and take notice. In the end, the masses chose the genuine, down-to-earth candidate who related more to the average voter than a candidate who had well-crafted statements made by his or her PR team.

Define and utilize your brand
In business, the first step to success is having a distinct brand to set yourself apart from your competitors. Even though the arena is politics and not business, the same rules apply. Nenshi’s bold purple colour, which he used in every facet of his campaign, made him an instantly recognizable brand. This was akin to what we see in large scale politics, with blue instantly recognized as the Conservative Party of Canada, and red the Liberal Party of Canada for example. In Calgary, purple meant Nenshi. Going one level deeper, that well-crafted brand stood for something more than just an underdog candidate with a strong message. It stood for the power of choice, the power of community and the power of the individual voice.

Make a roadmap: What are your goals?
Without a clear idea of where you are and where you want to go, you will waste resources running around in circles. Thinking “outside the box,” knowing your audience and what appeals to them and keeping them informed and “in the loop” are all parts of a robust social media campaign. Don’t worry about having a menial presence on several social networks, just focus on the two most applicable to your campaign and work the audience.

Free is not free
Just because you don’t have to pay to have a presence on Facebook or Twitter doesn’t mean that it should be taken lightly or done half-heartedly. There is no greater asset than “social capital,” brand ambassadors that will eat, sleep and breathe your campaign. Giving social media the respect and attention it deserves will pay off in the end. Conversely, a haphazard social media campaign will end up costing you in the end by confusing voters and muddling your brand. One option you can use is to appoint one member from your team as manager of social media and have them focus strictly on growing your online audience.

It all begins by making your audience realize the power that they hold with a single ballot. Ralph Waldo Emerson, a noted American essayist and lecturer, stated: “Those who stay away from the election think that one vote will do no good: ’Tis but one step more to think one vote will do no harm.” An engaged voter is one who is more likely to vote–and vote for you.

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