I had a lot of fun training on social media for candidates for Progressive Majority, and running the round table on social media for the Salsa conference. Here’s a recap of my session on social media principles and best practices, plus more linky goodness! You’ll see some of the material repeated from my in-depth trainings on social media for list building, plus all new best practices stuff for both political campaigns and non-profits.
Why social media? It’s where the people are. More than 66% of adults are connected to one or more social media platforms (via Mashable). Roughly 50% of the U.S. has an active Facebook account (via New York Times) 10%+ of US Internet users are on Twitter, and Google+ etc. numbers are much less than this. Anyways, sharing your content via social media can help you reach new audiences, as well as existing supporters.
Approach social media with your campaign or non-profit organization’s end goals in mind — it can be a huge time suck if you aren’t focused on what you’re trying to accomplish! It’s also not the best tool to reach undecided voters (unless you have an ad budget), because the people most motivated to seek you out on social media are your diehard fans (or enemies). It’s also usually hard to fundraise from directly. However it is a great way to build and engage your base, by interacting with your most dedicated supporters. It’s also a good way to share breaking news quickly. In the end, you’ll need to balance the time commitment versus what you get out of it – is this the best investment of time for the campaign?
Here’s a dirty little secret: only part of your online fanbase on social networks ever sees your content. First of all, social media is like a fast flowing river, and the flow of new content is so steady that your information may be quickly washed away. Most people don’t spend all day on social media. And if somebody doesn’t view their Facebook or Twitter news streams within a few hours of when you post something, they’ll never see it – unless they seek your page out, or somebody retweets or shares your content. On top of this, Facebook uses an algorithm to determine what content it shows users, called “EdgeRank” (more via TechCrunch). On average, Facebook says only 16% of your fans see your content (via Huffington Post). You can see how large the audience is or was for any individual post if you are the manager of a Facebook page – pay attention to the X people reached / % stats that are listed on the bottom of every post. How do your posts compare on average to the 16% stat?
With the limitations in mind, how do you get the most out of social media? Always be using social media to capture more email addresses – then you can control the flow of communication to your supporters, rather than a for-profit company with constantly changing rules. This is so important that I wrote a whole earlier blog post on how to do it, how to use social media for email list building.
But how can you reach the widest possible audience on social media with your content? Some of the basic principles:
- Serve up great, unique, regular content.
Social media should be interesting and fun. Nobody has to listen to you, so if you post boring content they will stop listening.
- Post often, at different times of the day, on different days.
- Repeat yourself a lot (but not too much).
- Interact with your audience, don’t just talk to yourself.
- For Facebook in particular, we know their algorithm (lately — this is ever-changing!) favors photos above all else, followed by links then status updates and notes. So use photos as much as possible to convey your information.
- Nothing helps manipulate the algorithm more than likes AND comments AND shares on your posts. Shares > Comments > Likes. So how do you get those likes and comments and shares? Here’s some social media best practices: Post to encourage interactivity. Ask questions.
Ask for likes, shares or comments directly.(Don’t do this in Facebook anymore, their algorithm changes will punish you if you explicitly ask for Likes and Shares.) Interact with the supporters that post on your page too, and people who tweet at you or retweet you. The “rules” are kind of similar for Twitter. If you want retweets, you should post good content, AND ask for retweets.
- Also don’t just post a link on social media – add some context about what the link is about and why it’s of interest (as much as you can, given character limitations on social media!).
- Be careful not to post too much on Facebook, or people will unfan or hide your content (no more than 2x a day on Facebook and probably less than that) Each Page is different and needs to find its own optimal posting frequency depending on its content and audience, but no more frequently than every 3 hours is a good general guideline.
- You don’t have to worry so much about this with Twitter, because: a) the audience is not static, meaning you only hit the people who are on at that time or specifically seek out your content; and b) there is no algorithm to manipulate, it is a straight, untouched newsfeed. Because of that, you should post more frequently on Twitter than Facebook and reiterate key messaging points or action items at different times. You’ve got a lot more leeway before you wear out your audience.
- Vary up the time & days you post, because some people check Facebook and Twitter at different times of the day. Don’t forget about weekends too. You can’t assume that one posting on one day/time is going to reach everyone. Facebook now allows you to schedule posts in advance, so take advantage of this feature!
- Geographically target your Facebook posts when possible, which is important to make sure your content is relevant to your audience (also helps avoid overwhelming people). You can change the targeting of the post just down to people in a state, or even a city. How you do it is when you’re about to post something, click on the drop down menu next to the Post button (It probably says “Public” for you now). When you pull down the menu, you have the option to customize your audience.
- In regards to Twitter, always use hashtags. Progressives should always use the #p2 hashtag and activist groups should be looking (or creating) hashtags to go along with their cause. Candidates should find the state and local hashtags. Congressionals typically use state and district number (#ca10, #ia05, etc.) or race specific hashtags (#ncgov, #nesen, etc.). Some states have statewide political hashtags like #ncpol as well. These hashtags are populated with activists and used by journalists to nab stories, which is exactly the audience you are targeting on Twitter. Also there are tons of issue-related hashtags out there that you can use to reach activists who are following and care about your issue.
- Also don’t spam people on Twitter… you can invite people into a conversation, but it’s generally weird to start tweeting generically at people who are not following you and don’t offer a conversational “in” for you to respond to. You wouldn’t walk up to a stranger at a party and start blasting them with your message, treat social media similarly. You need to start with “hello” or a more customized message if they are not already listening to you.
Once you get set up on a social media site, you need to keep posting regular content (looks really bad to have an abandoned social networking presence, maybe even ammo for opponents to make fun of, or graffiti on your Facebook wall). It’s better to pick one thing (perhaps Facebook, since it reaches the largest audience) than to try to do Facebook and Twitter and Pinterest etc, and not do any of them well. You can also ask supporters and super volunteers to help share the load with social media, but make sure you trust their judgement before you give them admin-level access to social media accounts. Because that’s giving them the ability to use the voice of the campaign or non-profit.
Have more questions about making the most of social media for your non-profit or political campaign? Contact PowerThru today!