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What President Obama Can Teach You About Social Media

Barak Obama & Social MediaIs anybody else glad when big political campaigns finally come to a close and we can hear about something else for awhile? Even the most diehard political junkie must get tired of the ads, endless ‘talking head’ debates, and oceans of ink spilled every four years.

It can be fun and useful to put the issues to the side and look at politics for lessons it can deliver in other areas. Here are 5 lessons political campaigns can teach us about social media.

Lesson 1: Measure Success with Hard Data

One thing about political campaigns – they know how to define success: Get more votes than your opponent. This kind of focus might sometimes lead to ugly politics, but one can’t argue about the clarity of purpose. Can you come close to getting this kind of clarity in measuring your social media success?

Yes and no. The ways to engage using social media and the goals are too varied to be as simplistic as getting the most followers, likes, or connections. BUT, it is possible to put certain goals as hard and fast numbers. Make sure your goals include measurable statistics. It is fine to have an overall stated objective to “create engagement.” Just make sure you have metrics to gauge progress.

Lesson 2: Use the ‘right’ channels to reach your ‘voter.’

Major party candidates use YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, and blogs on their websites to get their message out on social media.  They didn’t limit it to just one, but neither did they hit every site out there.  They chose the ones that would give them the most benefit.  Businesses likewise need to sort through the numerous options in social media and choose only a few that will work best for them, they are most comfortable with, and most importantly, where their target audience spends their time.  

Lesson 3: Always Keep Your Target ‘Voter’ in Mind

People often think of politicians as being willing to say anything to get everyone’s vote. This is actually not true. They are well aware that a significant portion of the population won’t vote for them no matter what they say. So they target their message directly at those who can still be persuaded and also keep their own supporters happy.

In social media, it is a common mistake to make your message so general that you can appeal to everyone. Instead your messages should be all about keeping your “supporters”(current and repeat customers) happily engaged, while attracting attention from those who are undecided (prospects who really might buy from you). Businesses heavily involved in social media need to remember what politicians already know – not everyone is going to be interested in your message. Don’t dumb down or generalize to the point where you are losing the ‘undecided’ prospects you could be winning over.

Lesson 4: Stay on Message

Modern political campaigns are relentless in testing messages and then sticking to them. In fact, some political analysts say that the difference in campaigns is who does a better job of staying “on message.”

What does staying “on message” mean when it comes to your brand and social media channels? And does everyone who helps with your social media accounts understand the importance of this? This, of course, does not mean that every message you send out is like a political ad drumming out the same message over and over. It does mean that every message should be consistent with you and as a company.

Lesson 5:  Get Your ‘Voters’ Involved

Political conventions are now very carefully crafted to get enthusiastic supporters excited about their candidate. One of the main goals is to get as many people taking grassroots action and engaging on their local level. Campaigns love to see lawn signs popping up, local editorials... any action that shows someone has crossed the threshold from passive viewer to champion for a candidate.

What are you doing to get your own social media followers and fans to champion your brand? What incentives are you giving them to do the equivalent of putting up a lawn sign for you?

We don’t have to worry about being bombarded with presidential messages for another 4 years. But you can implement these lessons now to put your business among the ‘elect.’



Join The Conversation

  • Jan 15 Posted 3 years ago Anna Gunnerman

    Lessons learned from all kinds of celebrities about social media—The “do’s” are just as important as the “don’ts”. For instance, do let your fans know about your newest sales and share a good quote or two. Don’t pull an Anthony Weiner and send photos that you think are private. Nothing is ever private on the Internet. Absolutely nothing. And web application development should be tested and re-tested. The website was an embarrassment, and I’m sure any apps connect with it were, too. (Although I hear it’s running better now).

  • Qnary's picture
    Nov 30 Posted 4 years ago Qnary

    It is important to learn how to correctly target your followers.  Using the right message and staying on topic are some of the most keys to reaching your followers.

  • Lauren Mikov's picture
    Nov 28 Posted 4 years ago Lauren Mikov

    Nice analogy Brett. Lesson 4 is particularly important. I'm glad you noted that "This, of course, does not mean that every message you send out is like a political ad drumming out the same message over and over. It does mean that every message should be consistent with you and as a company." There's a fine line between businesses using their social accoutns as a sales megaphone and posting random cat videos every day ;)

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