On Monday night, I attended a conference sponsored by Politico and Facebook on the use of social media by candidates in this election.
I was hoping to write a blog post titled “What communicators should learn from campaigns.” Unfortunately, I left the event thinking the title should be “What campaigns should learn from communicators.”
To be fair, campaigns have nearly the same struggles as other organizations in how to effectively use social media. According to the forward-thinking consultants on the panel, some of the challenges they face in trying to help candidates effectively use new media include:1. Educating political campaigns that social media is not just another distribution platform to send out press releases. Instead, it should be used as a tool to engage supporters.
2. Convincing political campaigns the principal of the organization - in this case, the candidate - should write tweets in his or her own words as opposed to having a campaign deputy write it.3. Teaching political campaigns that, just because a Twitter feed or Facebook page has only a few thousand followers instead of a hundred thousand followers, the small audience is still crucial. Those few thousand fans are likely to be the most important people to engage. They tend to be reporters, bloggers, big supporters, volunteers, donors and advocates, and other influentials.
Do these challenges sound familiar? Social media is still a relatively new and emerging phenomenon, particularly in the campaign world. As surprising as it may seem, the panelists at the event reminded the audience that social media was not a substantial part of campaigning in the last campaign cycle, which was just two short years ago. Campaigns and business alike are facing the same challenges as they quickly figure out how to master this new rapidly growing medium of the social web.
In this past season of Mad Men, Don Draper hired a former campaign staffer from the Lyndon Johnson campaign to be the superstar art director for the agency. Indeed, there seems to be a mutual fascination between Madison Avenue and the world of campaigning and politics. It should be acknowledged, though, that both spheres still have much to learn from each other.
Jeff Mascott is MD of Adfero Group.