Regardless of your political views, there are lessons of all shapes and sizes that we can learn from our 2016 presidential candidates. As a PR professional, it’s been eye-opening to watch the variety of tactics different candidates use to get their message across. One particularly popular tactic this election cycle is social media, which has become an easy way for candidates to convey their platform directly to the voter. But are they hitting the nail on the head when it comes to their social media presence? Let’s take a look at some of the do’s and don’ts of social media, as taught by our presidential candidates:
One of the best attributes of social platforms like Twitter is that you can make a direct connection with your audience. Today, everyone from potential voters to consumers to your parents are on social media. Make the most of the broad exposure and use it often - and don’t forget to take advantage of the different ways you can interact with your followers. Tags, mentions and retweets are all great ways to communicate directly with your followers to show them that you care about the same things as they do. Not only will it build goodwill, but it will make your followers more apt to engage with you in the future.
As obvious as this might sound, you have to remember that on a social platform, you represent your brand, whether that’s your company, your cause or yourself. If you’re looking to win over voters or consumers, pointing fingers, whether literally or figuratively, will hurt you in the long run. People will be more likely to remember you for your antagonism than your message; think about Donald Trump's now infamous rants against Megyn Kelly following the first Republican Debate. Avoid it and instead, showcase the positive - why you or your brand is the answer to a problem.
Do be authentic
Authenticity is what makes you relatable. Whether you're running for office or running a company, your followers wants to know what they have in common with you, which helps forge a stronger connection. As my colleague Heather noted recently after one of the recent Republican debates, when you share real stories about real situations, you'll reap the benefits with a more engaged and interested audience. Hillary Clinton is one of the candidates to take advantage of this approach; see her tweet about when she and President Clinton dropped their daughter Chelsea off at college.
In messaging, consistency is the name of the game, and social media is an important avenue for candidates and companies to drive home their message. Keep your brand at top of mind by delivering your message regularly across different social properties. How often should you be posting? While it can vary, as a general rule you should be posting to Twitter at least five times a day, posting to Facebook five to 10 times per week, and posting to LinkedIn once a day.
Do stick to your messaging
Politicians have platforms, and brands have values. All of your social media posts and interactions should reflect these. The more you address an issue or point, the more it will be associated with you, and the more credible you will become on that issue. Politicians who waver on issues are called flip-floppers, and can come off as calculating and unprincipled. Brands can avoid this by keeping their language relevant to their values and message.
Don't fabricate the truth
Once it's on the Internet, it's there forever. If you post something on social media, you should assume that someone, somewhere, is fact-checking you. Donald Trump is the latest, but certainly not only, politician to be denounced for spreading questionable statistics. Fabricated information - intentional or otherwise - detracts from the trustworthiness of your brand. If you're not sure, don't share it!
Social media, done right, can have huge benefits. And not only as a medium to get your voice out; as you begin to engage with your audience, you'll be able to glean direct insight and responses to your messaging that you likely wouldn't have seen otherwise. It's this feedback that ultimately makes candidates more representative of the people who will elect them and brands more relevant to the people who keep them in business.