We’ve explored the broader concept of using online social media to promote political candidates and campaigns, but Facebook is probably the best Internet social networking website for generating votes, volunteers, supporters and donations. While many local politicians prefer to use good old-fashioned shoe leather campaigning and eschew new technologies, it’s going to become more and more difficult for them to ignore the phenomenon of social media like Facebook fan pages and groups.
Why? Because when your opponents start effectively utilizing new technology like Facebook to help their political campaigns, then you either have to adapt your strategy or eventually get picked off by a challenger. If you’re a new candidate, then implementing Facebook in your first political campaign (even if it’s a small local effort) will start you off on the right track; if you’re a tenured professional politician, you need to either start learning about social media or pay an expert to do it for you.
If you’re even moderately Internet savvy, the chances are that you already have your own personal Facebook page before you even make the decision to run for office; if not, you’ll probably start one eventually, as Facebook is seeing phenomenal growth and adds millions of new users every month (you can’t resist peer pressure forever, my friend). You might already realize the great networking potential that Facebook offers for business and politics, but it’s important to know the difference between a personal account and a Facebook fan page.
With personal Facebook pages, you have to approve every new contact who requests to be listed as a friend and interact with you online; Facebook fan pages are often used for websites, public figures, celebrities, products, businesses and politicians, and they allow anyone to join or become a fan with the click of a button. The administrators of the fan page can then update their fan group with bulk messages or calls to action; allow fans to post and interact on the fan page wall; and promote the fan page through other websites and online media.
If you have any political acumen at all, you can probably immediately see the potential that a Facebook fan page has for political candidates. Building contact lists of supporters and sending out bulk emails and snail mail can take a lot of time, effort and money, but keeping all of your Facebook fans in the loop about your campaign takes only seconds. It creates a sense of excitement and community for your political campaign, your fan page group can continue to grow even after the campaign is over, and it is a sort of self-sustaining online gathering spot for any voters who want to get involved or learn more.
Creating a Facebook fan page for your campaign is simple; you only need to have a personal Facebook account initially, and as page administrator you can have control over your fans, content and promotion of the page itself. When you do decide to start your fan page, you need to take the initiative and promote it to grow your fan list. Put a link to your fan page on your campaign website, send a message to all of your Facebook friends requesting that they become a fan, and promote the fan page to your entire email list. The larger your fan page grows, the faster it will attract new members–just like a snowball rolling down a hill.
One last tip: try not to overdo it with bulk messages to all of your fans over the course of the campaign. I personally don’t like to send bulk messages to fans more than once a month (remember, your fans can easily get tired of getting so many messages from you and remove themselves from your page).
Running a successful political campaign for office is all about effectively organizing, planning and communicating with people, and a Facebook fan page makes those efforts much easier. If you’re an elected official or plan on getting your name on the ballot sometime in the near future, you need to make learning about Facebook a priority.