If you are a candidate in an election, you are asking the public to spend their vote with you. In business you are asking them to spend their cash. Either way, they are parting with something of value.
In a market where there are more candidates than seats, how do you win an election?
With 54% of every second on a smartphone spent on a social media platform, it cannot be ignored as massive channel of influence.
The Election is the wrong place to start
On the doorstep, the electorate are really asking the candidates “what can you do for me?”. What if they already had that answer? What if the first thing the resident said was “thank you for resolving that problem in our town.”
During the highly disruptive snow events in 2017 and 2018 the country grinned to a halt. There was one TD in particular I noticed who was updating his social media channels in such a valuable way. Through his access to local authority updates, he informed people of road closures, road openings, electricity outages etc.
One ill-informed social media user questioned the amount of information people were getting from him. The user clearly hadn’t read the tranche of timely content he had been publishing. The interesting thing to watch then was that it was his followers who berated the user for daring to question his value.
It’s not a quality we see from the electorate very often! But he had clearly established his value to his voters, they understood it, and were front and centre to defend his personal brand. He has his work done years before election day.
An Election Campaign is a 4 year Brand Marketing Campaign, not a 3 week Flash Sale.
Voters do not differentiate between a voting decision and a buying decision.
The rules of marketing have changed so dramatically since the last election campaign, those who still have not adopted it have little hope of catching up. Equally, the newcomers who have already established their personal brand can completely outperform a sitting candidate who became complacent.
This may not be the game you want to play. The fact that other brands are doing it this way – even though they may not even be in your market – leaves you no choice but to play by those rules. Otherwise you’re left behind.
The challenge for candidates is that they are competing for the same screen time as established commercial brands, and the algorithms of Facebook, Twitter, Google and Instagram don’t differentiate between the civic value of a cat video and an election video. They care about which post the audience is more likely to engage with.
To boost engagement, brands are publishing, analysing, and tweaking their content every minute of every day. Many election candidates only dip their toe into online marketing every election cycle which means the last time they had to seriously consider the marketing value of social platforms was 4 years ago.
In those four years, the entire digital landscape has transformed and cartwheeled several times over.
Candidates need to accept that they are not just competing with each other. They are competing with cat videos, and every other distraction on the smartphone screen.
”“In the social media campaigns of political elections, the other candidates are the least of their problems!"Alan BreretonContent Creators 2019
The Danger of Overestimating Your Reach
Looking at some of the local election candidates who were eliminated on the first count, it is very apparent to a marketer why the campaign didn’t work. If the geographic area of candidate awareness and influence has a small population, there can be an overestimation of their reach. Being known and appreciated by a community of 250 people is unfortunately not enough to compete with the candidate living and influencing in the town of 5,000 people, especially when both are in the same electoral area. It’s just numbers. It’s not that one person is more capable or less worthy of their vote, it’s simply the fact that more voters have been available to them to be influenced.
In marketing, many businesses operate this way. The don’t cast their net wide enough to insulate them from any negative effects on their hyper local market, and simultaneously have not given themselves an opportunity to grow and increase their turnover by becoming known in a new market.
Content Marketing holds a solution for building a relationship with a community or the electorate.
Candidates who understand Content Marketing have a 4 year head start on the political candidate who is then trying to get any traction or screen time.
One of the most outspoken proponents of content marketing is Gary Veynerchuck. His company Veyner Media employs 600 people in New York and has delivered campaigns for brands such as Budweiser and GE. But he is keen to point out that he is in the business of building brand value – not running sales campaigns. His strategy has been to provide so much value through his daily content that his audience will feel “guilty” for not doing business with him!
Let’s change that language a little. What if the election candidates provided so much information and value to their community that they would feel guilty for not voting for him/her in the next election in 4 years.
Most already elected officials are doing great work for their community. But without an effective online content strategy to show this work to their audience, their impact is limited to the handful of people who were directly affected by that great work. You’ve already done the hard work – you just need to document it.
The candidates who are communicating regularly with their electorate position themselves to win every time (except when they are involved in a political scandal, unless they are Donald Trump who seems to be coated in Teflon!)
Content Marketing is not part of the job description – it’s part of the success description.
Have you seen election candidates who do social media well? Or candidates who appear from nowhere and ask for a vote? Comment below and let us know!
*note: this blog article is focused on the value of content marketing for candidates and political representatives. It is not proposing that content marketing is secret to winning an election. It is proposing that it is one of the most effective ways of communicating their great work with the electorate BEFORE asking for their valuable vote.
Top tips for Election Candidates
Start to think of yourself as a personal brand
It can be difficult to disconnect yourself from your-brand-self but it is very important to view it that way.
Develop a Content Plan
This is without doubt the most important starting point. Without some plan for what is to be posted it will result in either an inconsistent online presence, or too many content and language styles which devalue your personal brand
Video is King when it comes to online marketing content. It is especially useful when your provider adds subtitles and text to the video as many users will watch the video with the sound off.
Your Blog Posts
Blog content will ensure that your website is more likely to be seen by Google and other search engines
What about a Podcast
Ever thought of recording a podcast? Many people are listening to podcasts as they commute for hours per day, or as they work out in the gym.
Photographs are still really important for your website and social channels, so be sure to select really good photographs that look professional
Optimise for each platform
A video or image for Facebook will need to be a different size to the video and image for Linkedin or Twitter. Make the best use of screen space on each platform by getting the dimensions right!
Observe the 90/10 rule.
Provide value as often as you can – 90 percent of the time. Then, the 10 percent when you ask for the sale/vote you have already won it.