The presidential campaign trail is no longer about straw polls or making stops at local diners – just ask Rick Santorum, who tried the latter in political bellwether state Iowa and ended up with an unexpectedly “intimate” lunch with the one voter who showed up.
Taking the place of traditional outreach efforts is one that requires less literal footwork but relies nonetheless on a bit of finesse – social media. Facebook, with its 1.49 billion monthly active users, “is emerging as the single most important tool of the digital campaign,” writes National Journal political reporter Shane Goldmacher.
Candidates who succeed the most with Facebook "are those that engage with and listen to their fans, rather than using the platform as a one-way communication tool,” a representative for Facebook writes in an email.
Reaching Facebook users is not only a critical tool for anyone running for president, but also for anyone growing a business. As Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg noted during the company’s earnings call yesterday, the platform can help small businesses with shoestring budgets expand rapidly. Here are three tactics potential Commanders in Chief are using that you can replicate.
Make Users Interact
The numbers prove it – Republican candidate and real estate mogul Donald Trump is killing it on social media. With 2.7 million likes, his Facebook page is by far the most noticed among presidential hopefuls. It’s important to note that he’s been using the same page since 2009 and his celebrity outside the political arena can only help him generate buzz. And also, remember that some people probably like his page less because they love him, and more because they love to hate him.
“He has made a career out of being the center of attention. That is Trumpism,” Sherri Greenberg, clinical professor at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin told the Wall Street Journal.
So what are the distinguishing features of Trump’s Facebook page? The Donald loves the ALL CAPS, for one. Additionally, he makes use of video. But, as the Journal points out, where he really stands out is on interactions – there were more posts, comments, likes and shares on his page than on any other presidential candidate page on Facebook on July 13.
If somebody writes on your wall, respond in a comment. If somebody makes a comment you like, "like" it. Share posts from other pages that reference your business or a topic related to your field.
Refine Your Feed
Just a month ago, Republican Rand Paul was the top grosser for Facebook page likes. It was only recently that Trump unseated him. Politico attributed Paul's success with social media to a team of advisors tweaking every minute aspect. These guys think really hard about details as small as the exact number of seconds for the perfectly-engaging video to reach Paul’s 2 million Facebook followers.
Assuming you can’t spend millions on a top-notch social media team to do the work for you, get ready to do your own research into metrics to see what kinds of posts do well. Stay active, but emphasize quality over quantity. One thing Paul does that is effective is offer a variety of posts – text, image, video.
Grassroots darling Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders has been dubbed “Facebook royalty” by the New York Times. Some have questioned whether Sanders’ unorthodox approach to campaign fundraising, which includes rejecting super PAC support will put enough in his coffers to propel him to a spot on the presidential ticket. Skeptics can’t deny however that the senator is outpacing Democratic nomination heir apparent Hillary Clinton in one important area with 1.5 million likes on his Facebook page, compared to Clinton’s 1.1 million likes.
Sanders’ method relies heavily on posting images paired with quotations in which he espouses his views – sometimes paired with an unsmiling image of the senator. The candidate is also known for penning posts longer than some social media analysts would advise, notes the Times. It’s quirky, and it works. By maintaining an organic feel to his page, Sanders makes himself seem real and accessible to voters.