Social Media and Politics: Why it Matters + 7 Tips for Campaigns

Is there a reason why social media is so prevalent in politics?

Social media is the modern-day public forum, where voters have complete access to information. Politicians can break their own news in real-time on social media rather than waiting for news to be published. It is possible for political candidates to reach a wider audience in real time with the power of social networking?

Views to Votes

More people get their news from social platforms

  • There is no “single” platform when it comes to social media and politics.
  • No shortage of news sources sending stories directly to our smartphones.
  • According to 2022 data from Pew, the top social networks for news are:
    • Twitter (53%),
    • Facebook (44%)
    • Reddit (37%)
    • TikTok (33%)

Transparency & trust vs. mainstream media

Citizens have trust issues with traditional media, to say the least. Only 36% of Americans say they trust mainstream news sources. This includes cable news and print media. Only 11% of self-described Republicans (and 31% of Independents) say they trust the media. Pew data shows that adults under 30 trust social media news about as much as traditional media. News sources on social media are far from perfect. Even so, social media platforms provide politicians with a direct line to the public through real-time fact-checking. Hence, the value of social media transparency extends to candidates, since they can speak directly to voters. As TV audiences shrink, social media is the biggest show in town for politicians.

Get more information about how to use social media to help your campaign.

7 tips for running a political campaign on social media

1. Engage the public with video and live content

Newscasts aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. Live video on Facebook and Instagram allows politicians to broadcast their own news and interact with constituents. Real-time live video encourages meaningful and personable dialogue between politicians and voters. Politicians can use social media to address local issues not covered by larger outlets.

Beyond communicating policy views, candidates can humanize themselves through their social media accounts, and that helps voters feel more informed and connected to them. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez invited followers to her video game live stream on twitch to help her reach younger audiences who may not be affiliated with politics.

2. Fact Check your content prior to publishing

Social media is a massive news source for voters, while unchecked platforms can be a breeding ground for misinformation. According to MIT research, falsehoods are 70% more likely to be Retweeted than the truth. False claims and misinformation are difficult to contain once they’ve been made. Have an approval process for your account and always double-check your sources and wording before making claims that could be twisted.
Politics and social media aren’t free-for-alls. Did you know that Presidential Tweets are public record? There are real-world consequences that come along with a politician’s social presence.

Katie Porter’s viral videos with her famous whiteboard connect her with her audience and fact-check witness testimony. She said, “when you have someone who didn’t do their homework, you turn to the whiteboard to help make it more clear.” it’s a way for her constituents to understand what’s actually going on.

3. Don't count out "younger" social media platforms

It makes sense that politicians are investing in platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. It’s challenging to hear passion through a few characters on Twitter or an Instagram picture. Young people can tell instantly if a video isn’t genuine or if a politician relied on an intern. Both Millennials and Gen Z groups represent growing voter bases interested in activism. 

Understand the importance of keeping up with where people are going and connecting with them there. Those who utilize TikTok today could become voters and donors in the near future.

Cool or Cringe?

It was Keaton Safu’s opinion that Ken Russel’s “thirst trap” was acceptable at Cal State Long Beach, according to the Los Angeles Times. He thought Russell’s eight-second clip was perfect for TikTok users who don’t have much time or attention: “I’m just going to say, ‘Hey, this is when the election is.’ Boom! That’s all I need.” Plenty of TikTok users agreed Ken’s video went viral.

@kenforflorida #stitch with @skylarstecker Aaah @Che Durena just checking if your followers #VOTE ♬ original sound - Ken Russell

4. Put your fundraising efforts front and center

There has been an explosion of political advertising on social media since 2020. The Facebook Ad Library shows how much each campaign spends on fundraising and political ads. And it’s a lot. Since May 2018, $3.6 billion has been spent on political and social issue ads. Both Republican and Democrat national committees have active and engaged digital marketing teams as do a number of local candidates.

Running a political campaign on social media is more than just “Likes.” Fundraising is an important part of the campaign. Beyond running Facebook ads, securing donations via secure links is also fair game. Many candidates put donation links in their social bios or pinned posts. Don’t spam donation messages throughout social media–use them sparingly in your content strategy.

Opportunities for fundraising

Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), and the University of Pennsylvania have identified an increase in donations to new politicians when they start tweeting, according to a study published in Management Science. Focusing on contributions of up to $1,000, the study found that weekly aggregate donations rose more significantly in states where Twitter penetration was high. However, these gains were only present for new politicians, not for those with prior congressional experience.

5. Recognize not everybody is interested in politics

Sure, your goal is to grow your follower account and increase the exposure of your campaign. Political accounts are usually seen as the most “annoying” by the public at large. Some people go out of their way to avoid political discussions via social media. The “Muted words” function on Twitter is handy for this. Focus on your goals and engage with those accounts that are relevant to your cause.

6. Find time for positive, non-partisan posts

Data shows political polarization is reaching a fever pitch. Tensions are high among parties. Positive stories “just because” can provide a break from fierce debates. Think about stories that can benefit all followers, regardless of party affiliation. Uplifting and local stories are always encouraged. Memes and humor can also boost the posts of younger, social-savvy politicians.

7. Consistently ask and answer questions

Asking questions on social media boosts engagement. Providing your followers with topical questions encourages a bit of back-and-forth and shows that you are willing to listen to them. Using Instagram Stories, you can vet questions privately and post answers to followers publicly. Respond to comments when appropriate. This allows you to publish more thoughtful responses. Publishing stories as highlights also helps voters remember.

Ready to improve your social media outreach?

You can build a sense of community and support by understanding what to post and how to deal with your responses. We’ll give you and your campaign a free social media audit so you can see where your strengths and weaknesses lie. Contact us today 985-951-2270 ext. 1002

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