The Opposition Strikes Social Media by Beth Becker & Neal Rauhauser

By at June 2, 2011 | 5:29 pm | Print

The Opposition Strikes Social Media by Beth Becker & Neal Rauhauser

So you have yourself a Facebook page, and/or a Twitter account.  Things are going great- you post updates on a regular basis that are fun and interesting.  Your fan/follower count is growing steadily.  There’s even some great conversations taking place between you and your following.

But wait…what’s that?  Someone who is a fan of your opponent, or maybe even your opponent themselves has taken it upon themselves to make their opposition to you known on your Facebook wall or by directing tweets to you.  How should you handle this?

There are several schools of thought on this, but we’ll share with you some things to consider and some strategies we use with our clients.

Are the opposition messages coming from the same person over and over again or are they coming from a variety of people at random?

If it’s from the same person, you’d be well within your right to report them as spam on either Facebook or Twitter.  Be sure to block them as well or else they’ll be back two hours later with a repeat performance.  If it’s different people with the same message you’ll want to be a bit more circumspect.  It’s not unusual in this kind of case, for a supporter or two to “flag” their posts in some way.  And it’s not at all unusual for your supporters to rally around and bat the opposition down for you.  In many cases we’ve seen this turn into a rallying cry for supporters and it ends up being nothing but a huge plus for your own campaign and the opponent slinks away never to be heard from again.

Are they talking about campaign issues directly?  Are they in some way slandering the candidate?  Are they dragging the candidate’s family/personal friends into their messaging?

If they are talking about the issues and simply engaging in conversation, despite the fact that they don’t hold the same views, it’s not wise to do anything about this.  If it’s someone you’ve seen on your wall or in your twitter stream before and they seem to be intelligent and genuine, you may try to engage them in a conversation.  If it’s someone new to you it’s generally best to let your supporters rally around for you and handle the situation.
On the other hand, if they are out right slandering the candidate or drawing the candidate’s family or friends into the mess, it’s not out of bounds for you to report them and block them.

In general, we advise that it’s best to let your supporters rally on your behalf instead of doing anything yourself.  Banning or blocking someone opens your campaign up to accusations of censoring free speech, at best, or accusations of personal vendetta in worst case scenarios.  In all of the time we’ve been doing this, across many campaigns only twice have we ever had to actually ban someone ourselves.  When in doubt, don’t engage but don’t act- let your supporters defend you and in the process their support becomes even stronger.

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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