Overview: Social Media and 2012 Political Campaigns

The latest from regular contributor Beth Becker (@spedwybabs).

Overview: Social Media and 2012 Political Campaigns

By Beth Becker

We’re deep into the 2011 cycle and campaigns all across the country are starting to gear up for 2012. Many of those campaigns are pondering the digital landscape and wondering how it fits into the rest of their campaign strategy. Let’s take a quick survey of just how a campaign today might use social media/social networking to assist in claiming victory in November 2012.

The first rule to keep in mind is that while a campaign most likely can’t win without social media use in 2012, no campaign will win based solely on their social media strategy. This point can’t be emphasized enough and leads to one of the essential social media campaign caveats: social media is not just a communication tool to be subordinated to your Communications department.

Social media must be run by someone who understands communications and is in the loop regarding all campaign messaging, but social media must be used by each and every department in a campaign: finance/fundraising, organizing/volunteer management, field and of course communications — both internal and external.

Let’s take a peek at each of these departments and how each might use social media.


There are two main rules to keep in mind when engaging people on social media to raise money:

  1. Flat-out asks rarely are successful — just as in email fundraising, creative, inventive, personal are key words to remember.
  2. Social media fundraising tends to be small-dollar — max-outs are rare, but in the aggregate social media fundraising can be quite valuable. If done right, it will cover not just the 10% of your budget that should be going to online advertising but a little extra as well.

Organizing/Volunteer Management

In addition to recruiting new volunteers, social media is an easy (and often mobile-friendly if you use Twitter) way to keep your volunteers informed of upcoming events, changes in schedules etc. For example, if you have run a successful drive for remote GOTV phone banking and you want to make a change to the script being used, you could update a webpage and DM that link to your remote volunteers who can then easily access the information right from their mobile phones.


Just like in organizing, social media is often a mobile-friendly way (if you don’t have a robust SMS program) to keep your organizers in the field up-to-date on schedule changes and the like. It allows organizers in the field to keep your supporters involved in a canvas or lets remote supporters to find out what’s going on through the use of a campaign-specific hashtag and twit pics along with shout-out updates, etc.


This area is the most widely used for social media but I challenge you to think outside the box about how to use social media platforms for your communication needs. Does your press secretary need to do press hits? Have him or her contact the press via twitter by tweeting @ them and including a link that might be of interest. Do you live in a district where many residents are bilingual? Think about sending some of your tweets in the 2nd language or even having a dedicated social media feed in that 2nd language. Is there something really and truly unique about your campaign or candidate? Anthropomorphize with their own twitter feed or facebook page. The best example of this so far? Chuck Sowers, MO08 Candidate, put his dog on Twitter.

There’s more, but I don’t want to give away all of my secrets! The bottom line is to remember that in addition to using social media creatively, you should use it in all areas to support the campaign as a whole. There is no aspect of a political campaign that can’t make good use of social media.

Thanks Beth! And for more on this topic, look for an update of the Winning in 2010 e-book, coming soon in a new 2012 edition.

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Beth Becker
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