Nine Things Campaigns Shouldn’t Forget in the Gee-Whiz World of the Social Web

New guest author! Check out the post below for the first of what I hope will be many articles from political consultant Martin Matheny (blog, Twitter), who comes to us with a terrific set of tips for campaigns using social media.

Nine Things Campaigns Shouldn’t Forget in the Gee-Whiz World of the Social Web

Martin Matheny

The great thing about the social Web for campaigns is that the tools are widely-available, user-friendly, and free or cheap. Any campaign, national or hyperlocal, can get involved with little to no barriers to entry.

The absolutely mind-bogglingly terrible thing about the social Web for campaigns is the the tools are widely available, user-friendly, and free or cheap. Campaigns can quickly find themselves all over the social media map, going 100 miles an hour in a half-dozen different directions and going nowhere fast.

If you’re just starting to employ the social Web for this cycle, or if you’ve been running for awhile and want a quick reality check, here are a few things to remember.

1. Think combo plate, not buffet.

Think about the traditional concept of “media mix,” the proportion of broadcast television to direct mail to radio to whatever. I’d suggest the same concept applies to new media and the social Web. The range of options available to you are a buffet — you can have a scoop of everything. But should you? Think combo plate instead — just the most important tools to keep you focused on the message, not the platform.

2. Better yet, think meat and three.

No offense to the vegetarians out there, but where I come from, the “meat and three” is a time-honored culinary tradition — a meat and three vegetables. Think meat and three for the social Web needs; have one platform that is your “meat,” and a few others which complement it.

3. Let the content and the message drive the platform, not the other way around.

This is one of the big ones, and it ties directly into the concepts above. Before you start running wild on every platform available, think carefully about your message and the type of content you plan on putting out. Then, do a quick reality check as to the strengths and weaknesses of the your potential platforms — are they the right fit for your content?

4. Be where the audience is.

Think about audience. (If you’re already doing this, you’re ahead of the game.) How connected is the average voter in your city, county, or district? Are they diehard tech-savvy folks who get the shakes if separated from their Twitter account for more than a few minutes? Or, are they the type who checks their email once a week, if they remember? Probably they’re somewhere in between, but a quick look at the wealth of data available from a variety of free resources should get you moving down the right path. Where your audience spends their time is key in determining where you should spend yours.

5. But don’t limit yourself.

All the stuff in number four is true, but remember you’ve got multiple audiences. Let’s talk about donors, for example. Sometimes, you get lucky and generate interest in your race outside your district; remember to think about not just your average voter, but your average donor and volunteer too.

6. Push and pull.

Take a minute or two right now and think about the connections between your website and whichever social platforms you’re using. By and large, we do a good job of using Facebook, Twitter, and the like to bring people into our websites, but that’s only part of the equation. If the “push” from your site to the outside world is limited to a couple of buttons, what can you do to up the ante?

7. Take the online offline

Think about online destinations — your website, yes. But more and more, Facebook and other platforms are also discovery hubs for candidate information. Take the online offline by putting your Facebook fan page (with vanity url, please) or Twitter handle on your printed materials, direct mail, and even your television spots. It’s a simple fix and gives voters a choice about where to find you on the social Web.

8. If you’re going to hire someone, choose wisely.

It’s not a bad idea for larger campaigns to bring someone on board to handle the digital landscape and make sure your campaign is staying on strategy. But, if you’re going to do that, please take a look at Henri’s post on the five talents every campaign manager needs to look for in a new media director.

9. Most importantly, don’t lose the forest for the trees.

Again, I’m going to let the folks who produce content here regularly do my heavy lifting, and refer you to Colin’s money quote in this HuffPo piece. “You still have to have the right candidate with the right message at the right moment.” New media is part of a strategy, it’s not the strategy. Message is still king, call time still brings in the dough regularly, and you still have to knock on doors. Use the social Web to augment, not replace, these functions.

Thanks Martin! This could be the start of a beautiful friendship….


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Martin Matheny
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