Every serious presidential candidate this year will have a designated team focused on building an active, engaging social media presence.
They’ll document life on the campaign trail, push out important messages, raise money, recruit volunteers, and generally supplement their on-the-ground GOTV activities.
Sounds like a luxury only a big campaign can enjoy, right?
As the amount of time internet users spend on social media grows — by some accounts, the average social media user spends nearly 2 hours per day on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and a host of other sites — candidates who ignore social media do so at their own peril.
Ultimately, anyone who uses social media to promote a campaign, a cause, or a corporation is battling the same problem — how to work with Facebook’s restricting algorithm in order to reach as many followers as possible.
Whether a Fortune 500 company, a presidential nominee, a mom-and-pop shop, or a candidate for local dog-catcher, your posts are not going to be seen by every follower. A study estimated that average organic reach of a Facebook page (or the percentage of followers who actually see a post) had fallen from 16% in 2012 to less than 7% in 2014.
However, Facebook remains an effective way to reach average voters.
The key to unlocking Facebook’s potential is a simple, yet tricky, strategy: post good content.
Here’s a real-life example of managing social media for a regular person running for a local board. It’s a medium-sized bedroom community that typically draws out about 1,000 voters for the spring elections — not exactly a recipe for a rip-roaring social media campaign.
But by the end it was clear that Facebook could be a useful campaign tool even when dealing with such a small audience. And as the results show, quality content was key.
DO use social media to educate potential voters. Facebook users love learning new information, especially when presented in an easily digestible format. When we prepared an introductory graphic — essentially a mini-direct mailer — it was enjoyed, liked, and shared so much that our reach was nearly 7x our followers. A post explaining how residents could vote by absentee ballot earned a 4x reach.
DON’T post links with no background or explanation. Every post should include text explaining what you’re posting and why it’s important to your followers. Don’t just rely on a preview automatically generated by the link to do the talking.
DO capture the energy and excitement of your campaign. Out knocking on doors? Take a picture and post it! Have a large turnout at an event? Take a picture and post it. One Saturday afternoon we posted a collage of newly installed lawn signs. The post was seen by nearly 2x the number of our followers — plus people reached out to offer additional locations for signs.
DON’T post at random hours. Running a campaign means lots of long hours. If it’s midnight and you just remembered you forgot to make a post… wait. Facebook provides every business/organization with an Insights tab that helps you determine the best time to post. Rather than posting when everyone is asleep, it’s smarter to hold off until you know your followers are going to see it.
DO take advantage of Facebook ads. Yes, we know part of the reason Facebook is limiting reach is so businesses and campaigns have to buy ads, but they can be very effective! Facebook ads have a significantly higher CTR than traditional display ads, with much of the same targeting capabilities. Plus, a high performing ad can also help buoy a post’s organic reach. The day before the election, we spent $10 to promote a post, and it earned a reach of 1,158 — or an $8.63 CPM.
Social media can be tricky, but it’s irreplaceable alongside your time-tested, on-the-ground campaign strategies. When done right, content on your social platforms can be a highly effective and efficient tool in your campaign war chest!