This month, our Managing Partner, Stephen Perkins, participated in a panel hosted by the Leadership Institute and moderated by Stephen Rowe. The panel discussed the 2020 cycle and looked ahead to the future of political social media, diving into questions about which social networks work best, how followers can be converted into donors, volunteers, and voters, and common mistakes that can be easily avoided.
To view the panel in its entirety, follow the link below and enter “CONSERVATIVE” at checkout to watch at no charge.
Below are some of the questions from the panel, along with Stephen’s answers.
Which social media platforms have the experts found to be the most effective and which ones should we keep our eyes on?
“In terms of a specific platform that, in our experience, we found most effective has been Facebook… One thing I tell candidates is, we can go on these emerging platforms, but in terms of energy that we’re going to spend pushing out and promoting content, let’s focus on the ones where the majority of people that are following us are actually in the constituency that we’re trying to get votes from.”
What is the biggest social media mistake that you see people do when they’re just starting out, especially campaigns and organizations that can easily be corrected right now?
“A lot of people think ‘as long as I’m producing great content, and I’m getting community engagement, things are going to be okay’ when it really takes more of an investment than that. It takes a strategy. Lacking a strategy on how to get donors and volunteers early on – and even voters down the road – is where campaigns can step up their game. Also, social media generates ‘trolling.’ Don’t feed the trolls. In other words, there’s going to be a lot of people who have negative comments; Don’t engage and don’t delete comments, it only makes the problem worse.”
Which platform is most effective in reaching younger people?
“Campaign demographics shift depending on what kind of candidate and issue they’re running with. Facebook is still a big king, even with younger audiences, but remember that Instagram – where you have a lot of young people – is part of the Facebook ecosystem. You have to look at what platforms they are on, and how can we balance between all the platforms to make sure that we’re not putting too much energy into one that’s not going to yield the results we’re looking for.”
What is everyone’s opinion on what it’s like in a campaign when someone verified on Twitter or Instagram follows their account, and who you should and should not follow back?
“We sometimes lose track of the idea that there are real people on the other end of the screen. Real people liking and following. Engaging with [followers] in a meaningful way is what’s going to turn them into donors, volunteers, and ultimately, voters. There’s a balance where you don’t want to follow everybody back, but look for those people who are influential in your district, and those are going to be your targets. I would also note to be careful with who you follow because there are some people you could follow that may raise eyebrows. Rarely does this happen – rarely will you have someone on an opposing campaign go through everybody you follow – but let’s say you follow a conspiracy theorist or extremist, it can cause issues for a campaign. Be mindful and be careful who you follow back because that may come back to bite you.”
Are there any emerging social media platforms that they would recommend to look into or consider?
“As you look at any emerging platform, they do come and go. Even on Twitter, we’re seeing there are some challenges with certain conservative voices. So go in with an understanding that it may not be a forever thing, certainly for a campaign that has a short life cycle. That’s not always a bad thing, but it goes back to what you’re going to focus on, and know that you truly never own a platform.”
What is one social media strategy that you see Liberals using that you wish that Conservatives would take more advantage of, or vice versa?
“The big difference is looking at the liberal base of supporters: they’re generally more tech-savvy and they’re younger. So it makes sense that they’re able to connect with their voters on a different level. Design and the concept of pushing forward a candidate or an organization’s brand is really important, and something that Republicans need to focus more on.”
How do we address online censorship and some workarounds in case it may happen to us?
“You never truly own a platform, and they can all go away in an instant, whether it’s the company deciding to shut it down or a myriad of other things. On the practical end, what a great opportunity to do some acquisition. If you’re running a campaign, just think of the messaging of ‘big tech is silencing conservative voices, join my email list and make sure that I don’t lose contact with you.’ I think the free market will allow it to work out, but we can also take advantage of these opportunities and make them work in our favor.”
Recently AOC held a twitch stream to raise money for food pantries because of COVID, she was able to raise $200,000 just by playing the game Among Us. How do we cultivate the younger generation/communities to move us in this direction?
“Finding something that makes sense for your candidate. AOC also got a lot of viewers on a live stream and all she was doing was making margaritas. For some people, maybe that doesn’t quite fit the candidate’s personality. Same thing with Tik Tok – I was casually scrolling and I saw a bunch of John Ossoff videos during his campaign, and it made sense because he has this personality that connects with that platform. But again, think about what is realistic for your candidate to do. The last thing you want is for something to feel forced or not genuine. So be mindful of what you’re working with.”
What are some final words of advice that you’d give to these people that want to make an impact on social media and anything in general?
“The biggest thing is to be strategic when you’re starting out. You can go in with an all-of-the-above approach, but if you really want to get far, the one thing that you can’t get back between now and Election Day is another second of time. So every single second needs to be returning value. There are a lot of different metrics you can look at on social media such as impressions, reach, click-through, and costs per. But at the end of the day, how many donors are coming in from digital? How many people are signing up to be volunteers from your website or from social media? And how many people go out to vote? Stay focused on those metrics and you’ll do well. And then also put an investment behind it. You’ve got to invest in that just like any other organization has to invest in order to see a return.”