If you’ve logged into any social media accounts over the last several months, it’s likely you’ve begun to notice a growing number of posts by friends, family & peers highlighting their support and/or disdain for the candidates of the 2016 presidential election. Sometimes these posts are informative, and simply trying to give others valuable information that may help him or her make an educated decision come November. However, others are just strong opinions, rooted in little more than a passion for a particular agenda item that the candidate is promising to deliver upon. I found myself growing more and more annoyed by the latter posts lately and couldn’t help but wonder where the days had gone where Facebook held little more than embarrassing photos of friends, babies, and cat videos. When did it become a forum for anyone and everyone to espouse their strong opinions on every subject from politics to religion to diets (and everything in between)?
Then I realized that if I’m hearing about the election every time I log onto social media, somebody is doing their job very well. As somebody who has watched social media grow from its infancy, I am always fascinated to see the power it can have when the country is truly rallied around a cause. So I started exploring where it may take us in 2016.
2012: Obama changes the landscape
Obama was been heralded as the first presidential candidate to use social media to help win an election. Spending $47 million on digital campaigns (compared to Romney’s $4.7M), he understood the fundamentals of social media were not about number of followers, but about engagement & relationships. He understood that great content spreads like wildfire and gets people talking. What’s uniquely different about social media than traditional media platforms is that we commonly have relationships or trust those in our networks. In fact, in the 2012 election, 30% of online users were urged to vote via social media, and 22% posted their final vote. What people are saying in our networks is important, even if we don’t always want to hear it.
Social media can be a powerful thing, especially if you get it wrong. Every brand, big or small, dreads the day they get lit up by the Twittosphere for a misguided tweet. In Romney’s case, “binders full of women” fueled negative sentiment across all major social networks but led to some pretty fantastic memes. Moral of the story? You need an effective content & communications strategy before embarking on your social media journey, whether its personal or professional, to avoid these ugly mishaps.
2016: Mobile, Content & Data, Oh My!
Obama set a precedent in 2012, but how will that evolve in 2016?
Mobile: we have more smartphones and they never leave our sides. 67% of Americans now have smartphones, nearly doubling the number in 2012, and 10% only have access to the internet via their mobile devices. 91% of smartphone owners have their device in reach 24/7. Websites & content need to be mobile-friendly, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see a candidate release their own app.
Content will be king. An effective content strategy utilizes a variety of formats, including blogs, videos, social tiles, images, e-books, and webcasts, and uses each piece in multiple ways to target different audiences. While all of the candidates are using content in some capacity, one is utilizing a powerful content marketing strategy: Bernie Sanders. How is he doing this?
Bernie Sanders Website: his website is well-designed and has a clear call-to-action at the top. It is easy to find exactly what you are looking for, whether it is background on Sanders, his views on key issues, merchandise, social networks, or the opportunity to contribute. One specific element of his site that catches any content marketers eye is the Democracy Daily blog. Providing insightful information around many of the issues at the forefront of this election, voters can educate themselves on these topics as they learn more about what Sanders stands for.
Social Media Pages: Sanders has over 3M likes on Facebook, 1.2M on Twitter, and shares a variety of content that both informs his viewers and promotes his agenda. However, with over 5M followers each on Twitter, Clinton & Trump are giving him a run for his money. Clinton has even broken into the wonderful world of GIFs!
Sanders has made his slogan #feelthebern into a hashtag that makes it easy to follow the conversation surrounding him on any social platform. His latest poll question? Who will #feelthebern the most?
Youtube – of all the social platforms, Youtube is leading in the polls. Partnering with NBC for the Democratic debate, it allowed a key demographic of this election—Millennials – to have their voice heard through a question by Connor Franta, a Youtube vlogger with over 5.2 million subscribers. He specifically targeted Clinton & O’Malley in his question as he felt that Sanders was made his stance known on issues of student debt & providing an economy that offers good jobs out of college. In addition to live streaming the debate, Youtube has been prominent in the social strategy of each candidate, with Trump leading the ranks with 27 million views. His closest contender, with roughly half the views and 1/3 of the engagements: Bernie Sanders.
It will be fascinating to see how the election unfolds but one thing is clear: I’m becoming an expert on how to block people on social media.