Social media is an advertisement for the superficial extroverted self. – Hozier
EXACTLY! I know our esteemed musician (Hozier) intended that declaration as a social media slam, but when it comes to political campaigning and social media he’s dead on. The next time I hear him sing, “Take me to church” I might just do it!
But rather than focus on the myriad of methods social media can be applied to a candidate’s detriment, lets set our sights on the singular means by which it can positively affect a campaign. Those aforementioned voter impressions may be key to winning a campaign, but once again, they need to be positive impressions in local races to have the appropriate effect.
All things considered equal, the candidates who tend to win are those who come across as someone with whom the voters would like to enjoy a couple of Michelob Ultras. Just as it is with a good advertising campaign, you have to sell yourself to the voters and that’s a two-step process.
And the first repetitive step is to consider ONLY the following types of posts:
- The happy candidate and/or their family coming out of church, a school event, a local restaurant, a local baseball game or any other minor gathering that demonstrates they’re engaged in their community.
- The happy candidate and/or their family enjoying the Sugar Grove Corn Boil, Swedish Days, the Scarecrow Festival, marching in a parade, or any other major even fort the very same reasons.
- The happy candidate engaged with a voter, or better yet, voters. Something along the lines of, “Hey look who I ran into today! (Local business names) owners Jane Smith, John Jones, and Susana Rodriguez and we had an amazing conversation on how to make our district more business friendly.
- Given the nature of our post-COVID existence, the candidate can also solemnly address a local tragedy, but they should NEVER EVER use the term “thoughts and prayers” when doing so. I’m sure I don’t have to explain why that won’t work.
I could continue, but I’m sure you have the idea by now. It’s not about you, it’s about convincing the voters that you’ll work positively on their behalf.
The second step, as previously touched upon, is to do your best to avoid providing the rabble with an easy reason to dismiss you. That means:
- With rare exception, DO NOT post your take on anything that might minimally be considered a hot-button issue. Not only will your thoughts on abortion automatically lose you 50 percent of the vote, but those posts will give your opponent’s supporters the perfect opportunity to tear you to shreds online. How does that saying go? “No one ever won an argument on social media.”
- In the vast majority of circumstances, I encourage candidates to leave their party affiliation to the voter’s imagination, particularly in non-partisan elections. The simple act of declaring you’re a Democrat or Republican can cost you half of the vote in these hyper-partisan times. The exception is districts that are highly skewed party-wise in partisan elections, but even then it doesn’t matter much because the primary becomes the main event.
- I know how tempting it is, but for all things holy, don’t weigh in on an issue like same-sex marriage when local officials don’t have the power to address it. What does running for alderman have to do with the transgender debate?
- Again, unless your district leans heavily in one direction, for all of the obvious reasons, avoid posting your participation in events like a pride parade or a Trump rally. It might work in a primary, but then your general opponent will likely use it against you to great effect.
- And for god sakes, if one of your opponent’s supporters is clearly trying to egg you on, DON’T TAKE THE BAIT! Repeat after me, “No one’s ever won an argument on…”
The main point is, aside from your qualifications and relevant experience, you want to put off revealing as much about yourself politically as possible because it significantly increases the odds of crossing the-voter-likes-you threshold before you’re forced to reveal that information. And once they like you, they’re far less likely do dismiss you for any reason.
So, there you have it! Don’t waste time pursuing meaningless endorsements that hurt candidates more often than they help, and avoid turning social media into a weapon that can be used against you. If you can follow these two simple stipulations, not only will you be ahead of the game, but you’ll be light years ahead of your opponent.
Jeff Ward is a sought-after campaign manager with a 75 percent winning track record. He’s the author of So You Want to Win a Local Election? a comprehensive manual covering all aspects of the campaign process. You can purchase the full color, monochrome, or eBook version on Amazon. If you’re interested in a campaign consultation, or you simply want to reach Jeff, please email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.