Over the past few years, social media has taken the political scene by storm. Whether its toppling regimes during Jasmine Revolution or helping countries find new leaders like we saw in the US and in India, social media is playing a major role in shaping political opinion, affecting outcomes and changing the very premise of politics in some cases.
Having said that, social media has its limitations and can many a times simply be adding to the hype without making many changes to the ground reality. To demystify all that and to help you make better strategies when planning for your social media campaigns for politics and elections, here are 10 simple points –
1. Social Media is not equal to the electorate
Now there are multiple ways to look at this. First let’s talk about the all important twitter. While twitter is one the most important news and discussion platform out there, the number of people actually active on twitter is quite less than what people imagine it to be. The ones who are active indulge in heated arguments, trade charges and create enough noise, for everybody to feel that twitter is the game changer. It is ‘a’ very important influencer for sure, but not the only one. Secondly, even though there are many netizens all around, it doesn’t always necessarily mean that they are voters or that they are the people, influencing whom will help you win the elections.
2. Likes are not equal to votes
Fans and followers can be, and are bought by one and all, officially as well as unethically, in some cases. No matter if you have a few thousand, lakhs or a few million followers, the number of followers or likes that one has aren’t really always the people who will vote or ask somebody to vote for you, but simply the people who are subscribed to you, which includes well wishers, fence sitters and also the ones who are waiting for the next opportunity to take a pot-shot at you. To be able to actively do that, some people even subscribe to pages’ notifications so they can be the first one to comment and criticise when somebody says something.
3. Never solely rely on social media
You see, the basic point is that social media is easy, and that’s why everybody does it. If you also unconsciously belong to the same category, then maybe it’s time to change gears. Social media can help create influence, can also help you win an increased number of votes, but if your entire strategy is a social media only strategy, then it can only get you as far. Depending on where one is contesting an election from, the social media influence will change (A simple way to know how many people in your region are on social media is to log on to facebook advertising manager and select your city to get the number of facebook users, which can be a fair estimate of the total users as well). Eventually the work that you do on the ground, the way traditional media positions you and the word of mouth publicity that happens will all impact the results.
4. You see everybody and everybody sees you
No matter how smart a strategy you think you have come up with, everybody sees what you are doing, just the way you keep a track of what they are up to. This is in fact one of the most important characteristics of social media – everybody sees everything, and everybody can know everything. So while you act smart and think up new strategies, you need to be extra smart by keeping an eye on what everybody is up to so you can be a step ahead of the game.
5. LinkedIn can swing it
LinkedIn can contribute in immensely powerful ways to your campaign. While many global political leaders are already on LinkedIn, others also realise its importance and are slowly getting on to it. The logic is simple, to win an election, you need to influence all sections of the society. Even though the busy working class may in a lot of elections be a smaller percentage if you compare it with the masses living in the hinterlands or the people spending time on facebook, but that small niche segment of people on LinkedIn can give you a very significant edge over competitors, not just in terms of number of votes, but also in terms of finding sponsors for your campaigns, driving corporate support and spreading positive influence in the power corridoors of an industry.
6. Instagram and Snapchat should be on your radar too
Who does instagram and snapchat is the question lot of people seem to be asking. While you may not be there, lot of people are. The second argument that follows is that aren’t these same people who are already on facebook? Why should I spend extra time in reaching out to them on these frivolous apps. Youth, or early voters are increasingly becoming the key factor in deciding elections. It’s not just because they are large in number, but because they make excellent volunteers and have the power and passion to convince & convert others. No number of mediums could be less when it comes to talking to them. We are talking about people with really short attention spans. What if they missed you on facebook, what if they are too bored to be on facebook? What if you could talk to them on instagram, and even if you don’t directly convert someone into a believer, influence them subtly to become one? Not just pictures, but videos could also be an integral part of your strategy, and as these platforms mature, the strategies for these platforms will mature as well.
7. Whatsapp for localized and remote marketing
Make no mistake to not consider whatsapp as one of the most important social media tools when trying to influence the masses. You see, apps like whatsapp have truly revolutionized social media. Facebook didn’t buy it just like that, they see the potential, they know this is one of the keys they need to reach everybody eventually. Talk to a vegetable vendor and there is a strong chance he uses whatsapp on their smartphone. They may not have facebook, but whatsapp, they do. Now extrapolate this information and apply it to rural areas. People may not have 24 hour electricity, may not have TV, but increasingly, you will notice, they have a smart phone. Mobile, as we know is the device on which the next billion will first access the internet. Carrying forward that thought, apps like whatsapp will be the first ones these people will come in touch with. While that is the part about reach, the other part is what whatsapp means as a medium. It’s a fun medium which people love to use. It’s a platform to share jokes, make groups and share multimedia. Effectively, whatsapp is like a mini tv for a group of people who also have the opportunity to discuss the same with each other, and if they like what they see, share the same with others who may not have access to such a medium. In a true sense, whatsapp can effectively be the medium that politicians can use to reach out remotely to the far-fetched corners of any country.
8. Advertising doesn’t win elections, good content still can
It’s the classic Advertising vs PR battle, and it’s no different on social media. Advertising can take you to more people, but it is the strong content that can make people come to you. Eventually, over a longer term, the idea is not to keep spending to reach out to people, but build a brand that people feel like getting associated with. Concentrate on the content, the thoughts and the messaging. Do that right and everything else will follow.
9. Customise content and strategy as per online analytics
Your online analytics can tell you more about the people you are trying to reach out to than you think. The cities they come from, the age they belong to, the languages they speak – everything must contribute to your strategy, your messaging and your offline campaign on the whole. After all people are people, and all data that can tell you more people is good for you.
10. Great Marketing begins with a Great Product
Gone are the days that you could do one thing, project another and win. We are moving towards an increasingly transparent world, one where your work speaks more than anything else. If you do good work, then great marketing will follow; do nothing and no amount of marketing can save you. Social Media works best for the people who do well to begin with.
Those are some things that I thought are important while planning and executing a social media campaign for politics or elections. What do you think are some of the ways in which politicians can leverage the power of this medium?