Following on the heels of our recent post about designing a political campaign website, let’s shift focus to another aspect of online promotional tools that are vital to building a candidate web presence: social media.
There are literally hundreds of different online tools that can be described as “social media,” so don’t be embarrassed if you don’t yet have a firm grasp on exactly what it entails. Basically, social media is any website or Internet program that allows you to meet and share information with groups of people online.
Some of the more popular social media websites include Twitter, Facebook, Digg, StumbleUpon, Yahoo Buzz, Reddit, LinkedIn and YouTube, many of which you’ve almost certainly heard of. Each social media site lets you share information in different ways and with different types of materials: Facebook and LinkedIn help connect friends and colleagues; Digg and Yahoo Buzz let you promote online articles; YouTube focuses on video.
Before you scoff at the idea of using social media in your political campaign, consider a few important things. Regardless of the size of your district, the odds are that there are many, many more potential voters than you realize who are members of online communities in one or more of these social networking sites. And there are numerous ways for you as a candidate to become involved in those social media communities and use them to find volunteers, donors and votes for your campaign.
As social media becomes more and more popular, elected officials and political candidates from across the country–and on all levels–are starting to realize the amazing potential that the phenomenon has to drum up support. Even office holders who were first elected long before the Internet have started to maintain active Twitter and Facebook pages to reach out to constituents and supporters.
Here’s why social media is so perfectly tailored to help in political campaigns: because there has never been an easier way to stay in immediate and direct contact with thousands and thousands of supporters. While political campaign promotion in the past involved laborious tasks such as bulk mail lists and automated phone calls, social media lets you reach out to every single one of your supporters with jut a few keystrokes.
Even email listbuilding, which was an Internet predecessor to social media, isn’t as effective in keeping a finger on the pulse of your consitituents and keeping them updated about your political campaign.
I can tell you firsthand that social media like Facebook and Twitter can help you raise more money and support than you can imagine–with one caveat. You have to put in a bit of work early on to learn both how to manage your social media accounts, and how to build up lists of friends to communicate with.
And don’t think that you absolutely must have a political campaign website in order to take advantage of social media as a tool to help you win on election day. Although a website helps, social media can be used effectively by political candidates even if they are running in a small race and can’t afford to hire a website designer.
In future articles, we’re going to focus on specific social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to tell you everything you need to know about using them to get votes.
Until then, start learning a little bit about social media on your own time by visiting these sites and navigating through them. Open your own social media accounts and start teaching yourself how to join groups and find friends, and the process of integrating this online networking into your political campaign will be even easier.