Social Media 101 by Beth Becker & Neal Rauhauser

By at June 2, 2011 | 5:26 pm | Print

Social Media 101 by Beth Becker & Neal Rauhauser

An Introduction to the Platforms

Social media is a term you’ve undoubtedly heard, but what is it really and what does it mean for a political campaign?  In the broadest of definitions social media is two things. First it is a tool for social interaction on a large scale. Second, it is a tool for people to share media content with each other.  Combined it provides a new and unique way for political campaigns to interact both with voters in the district and with outsiders who may share an interest in issues being discussed in the campaign or have some other motivation for being interested in that campaign.  Social media is a very general terms that covers many platforms that enable these interactions.

Blogging took the electoral process by storm in 2004, reversing a generation of corporate influence in the media by 2006. Facebook roared onto the scene in the 2008 Presidential race and 2010 will be the year Twitter comes into its own.

Every campaign ought to know at least one blogger who will cover their race. Gubernatorial, House, and Senate races command the attention of national level blogs like DailyKos or OpenLeft, while state level races are covered by state or regional blogs like the Burnt Orange Report of Texas or California’s Calitics. Bloggers will break news that the traditional media will not, they’ll cover policy details that would be just a footnote in the metropolitan newspaper, and in general they provide a link to a low volume news site, but it’s one with a very high affinity for local races.

Facebook, despite its security policy related convulsions, remains the premier local social media tool. 80% of those who follow a campaign will be in or near the district and can be activated for a variety of tasks. Small dollar fundraising is possible, but focusing on this will be off putting. Recognize these people as another aspect of your media channel and find a way to activate them to boost your name recognition. One short post from a popular local leader can be worth a hundred radio spots and it will cost nothing more than popping in to offer a thank you for the mention.

Twitter, a microblogging service tightly integrated with mobile phones, is a recognized force in national races and it reaches down to the level of federal House races when there is controversy in the air. The ratio here is reversed, with just 20% of the followers one acquires being local. Fund raising is a possibility if one can microtarget the influential locals but the same rules apply – attempting to treat followers as an ATM is a major faux pas. The person responsible for campaign communications should endeavor to establish relationships with a handful of attentive users, who will be pleased to provide tidbits of news, relevant blog posts, and regular reports on the pulse of the community.

Bloggers see themselves as citizen journalists, filling a gap left by the corporate consolidation of media. Facebook users are very often friends and family in real life. Twitter users are consumers and organizers of information who prize connection and recognition with decision influencers and makers. Each venue will provide something of benefit, but only if handled in a culturally appropriate manner.

In future installations in this series we will talk about how social media can fit into your overall campaign strategy, offer some suggestions of best practices for each of the social media platforms and present some case studies of campaigns that are and aren’t using social media well.

This is the first in a series of posts that will talk about social media and how you can use it in your campaign whether you are running for local school board or United State Senate.  Progressive PST is a netroots based social media consulting firms.  We work with Democratic Gubernatorial, House and Senate campaigns all over the country, advising them on the best use of social media to further their communication strategy.  This first post will briefly discuss the major social media platforms.  Future posts will explain how social media fits into a campaign’s overall strategy, offer best practices to be used for each of the platforms and finally offer some case studies about campaigns that are and aren’t using social media well.

Beth Becker and Neal Rauhauser are the principals of Progressive PST, a social media consulting company that specializes in working with Gubernatorial, House and Senate campaigns.  They are also the co-founders of the Blog Workers Industrial Union.    212 642 2675


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