The past ten years have seen a great many changes to our national political landscape. From new technologies, to new communications tools, it has never been easier to become an active participant in the political process. Indeed, the 2008 campaign season was really the first time social media became an active player in the political fray and it has clearly proven its value since then.
Initially, social media was contrived as a platform to bring old friends together and allow new friends to stay in touch. However, it wasn't long before politicians, advocacy groups, and smart businesses discovered the vast power these platforms had. Within a very short time frame all of these began using social media for member engagement purposes that helped drive their objectives past the goal posts.
Among the strongest users of social media, the Barack Obama camp definitely takes the prize as one of the most effective.
Their social media team worked tirelessly to build fan pages and grassroots support on Facebook and build followers within Twitter where they could share information and disseminate it rapidly to their followers who would then act upon it. Indeed, in both 2008 and 2012, it became very obvious that traditional message dissemination via the news, telephone, or even email were dinosaurs in comparison.
Using social media, the Obama campaign was able to notify followers of special events, mobilize them to participate in phone campaigns, or simply to engage in debate on other political pages.
It was a very effective strategy and is largely responsible for his 2012 victory over Mitt Romney.
In that light, the question your organization needs to be asking is not whether or not using social media for member engagement is effective. Any fool can look at the Arab Spring, the Obama campaigns, even the Chick-fil-A fracas of 2012 and see that it is an extremely effective tool. The real question you need to be asking yourself is "How can my organization also take advantage of this powerful platform?"
It's easier than you might think, and here are some quick and easy ways to get off the fence and get started.
Remember, social media is still in its infancy, which means that these tips are not one size fits all and there is plenty of room for you to add your own strategies into the mix.
- Determine who will manage your social media campaign. Will it be your marketing, PR, or communications team? Whoever you pick, they need to be your point people for your campaign with the sole power of determining the message you will send and when you will send it. This is important, as it will keep your message consistent and cut down on inner-office politics…turf wars.
- Research what the other guy is doing. As they say in business, don't reinvent the wheel as this will waste time and could leave your social media campaign floundering. When you jump into the social media waters, see what other similar companies, organizations, and advocacy groups are doing. Are they posting daily? Are they asking for donations? What information are they asking for and are they engaging their members?
- Make contacts and build a list of people who can help seed your social media campaign with active participants and people that can help grow it for you. This will make your growth plans much easier to accomplish.
- Engage your members and invite them to bring more people into the fray. Using social media for member engagement means that you want to spread your roots and spread them as far as you possibly can. For instance, if you're a national nursing association based in Denver and you build fans up all over the country, at some point the law of Kevin Bacon is going to kick in. At some point, people from all over the world are going to hear about you "from someone, who knows someone, who…" and you'll see rapid growth when this happens.
- Don't get pushy with your social media campaigns. These days, it's really easy for Twitter, Facebook, and other social media managers to believe that theirs is the only page that matters, and the only one their fans are paying attention to. As such, you need to keep your content flowing at a steady but not overwhelming rate. If you're posting 10 times a day, then your members will lose interest quickly. Instead, limit posts or tweets to 1 or 2 a day so that your members have something to look forward to reading.
- Deliver direct calls to action sporadically and only ask your members to engage their politicians on legislative matters when it is absolutely crucial to your organization. Better yet, you should craft all your messages so that when you are using social media for member engagement your followers are encouraged to take action upon themselves without being asked.