5 Social Media Lessons from the 2012 Presidential Elections

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I don't know about you, but as much as I appreciate our freedom in this country, I'm looking forward to political season being over! <grin>   I don't mind politics, exactly, but the angry tone this year's conversations have taken, especially among people who disagree, made it less than admirable, in my mind.  (Just Sayin!)

Given that this was the most social presidential election we've had to date, I think it's worth taking a moment as we head into the presidential election of 2012 to see just how social media has changed the US presidential election process. It's clear that social media has been a key part of both candidates' campaign strategies.  Both presidential candidates used social media to shape their image, deliver their message, and connect to their followers for fundraising purposes.

What was the impact?  Just look at these numbers! 

According to PRNewswire.com, donations from individuals have broken records, thanks to social media engagement and soliciting.  Donations in the $50 to $100 range for both Romney and Obama have never been higher. Both YouTube and Twitter usage and engagement exploded in numbers of tweets and shares about the campaign, sound bites, and the debates.

The debates spurred particularly high engagement levels. During the first Romney/Obama debate, there were 10.3 million tweets.  During the conventions, there were record numbers of tweets as well. After each debate, each campaign used Twitter to shape its message to its followers and to claim victory in the debate.  

While social media usage related to the campaign has skyrocketed, what does it mean?  What lessons can be learned from the abundance (putting it mildly!) of social media messages and branding attempts delivered by both Republicans and Democrats during the presidential election of 2012?

Here are the top 5 social media lessons from this election, along with a "Win It For Your Brand" to help you use these winning strategies for your brand!

1.  Engagement Trumps Broadcasting

I have said this many times when talking about brands, and presidential branding is no different. Likes can be bought – the best way to really get a sense of a committed audience is ENGAGEMENT!    Engagement (interaction between audience and brand, as well as interaction among members of an audience) is a better measure of loyalty than likes (which are a one-time involvement with a brand).  You can get a "Like" from someone who never again interacts with your brand online! 

For example, back in September, President Obama had a 4 to 1 advantage over Romney in terms of Facebook "Likes."  However, Governor Romney had a "talking about this stat" of over 300,000 higher than Obama!

Win It For Your Brand:  Don't get hung up on your number of likes on Facebook.  Focus on building quality engagement with your followers, and the likes will come.

And speaking of brands –

2. May The Best Brand Win

Politicians (and their teams) have long recognized the importance connecting with people and common human ideals. Think about the image of the politician working the crowd and kissing the babies. They're connecting with our shared hope in a better future for all, even if we often disagree about how to get to those better futures.

Each "brand" (aka campaign) spent a lot of time crafting an image and a story for its respective candidate.  Words tell, but stories sell, and each campaign leveraged the power of the story well. 

Win It For Your Brand: Take a good look at the story of your brand. Do your employees have regular traditions?  Does one of your customers have a heartwarming story to tell?  Share the story that makes your brand unique, and watch the conversation take off.

3. Perfect Timing Matters Perfectly

Do you remember the remarks Clint Eastwood gave at the Republican National Convention?  It gave Romney a whole new image boost and had audiences talking about online and offline, around the world.

The Obama campaign showed great timing with a single Tweet featuring a picture of Obama in a chair marked "The President" with the caption, "This Seat's Taken."  

Win It For Your Brand: Timing is essential on social media, and the only way to practice perfect timing is to stay up to date on what's happening.  Keep active on forums, monitor Twitter for industry related search words, and keep updating your best social media platforms regularly.  

4.  Show Me, Don't Tell Me

The power of an image can't be understated.  Great images paired with great text go viral.  For instance, the tweet mentioned above with the image of the back of Obama's head paired with well chosen words?  As of this writing, it's been retweeted over 55,000 times and favorited over 22,000 times.

Win It For Your Brand:  Images shouldn't be your only form of communication with your audience. But well chosen images, paired with a relevant or humorous image should absolutely be part of your strategy for maximum impact!

5. Be Where Your Audience Is

Why are both presidential candidates investing so heavily in social media campaigning?  It's easy – it's where the voters are!  

Win It For Your Brand:  If you're not on social media and your customer is, you're losing. Period. I can't stress that enough. If you are on social media, but sporadically, how can you be more present where your audience is?  Take the time to look at where your customers engage on social media and focus your social media efforts on those particular platforms to build quality, engaged relationships with your audience.

Did you notice any additional learning moments from the presidential elections?  I'd love to hear your feedback too – leave a comment below! 

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11 years ago

Yes, I think it’s important that we speak up…part of the reason we are where we are today…we tend to be reluctant to stir the pot right?

10 years ago

Nice nifty little list here. On point as well. Thanks

10 years ago

We have lots of thing to learn from Politicians as well as social sites. But I don’t know what which politician are really listening social sites voice.

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