Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Want to be President? Go beyond 140 characters.

     As a student of Integrated Marketing & Communication at Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism, as well as a dedicated politico who has worked both on Capital Hill as well as for a private political marketing firm, the new frontier of potential use of social media in the GOP primary election cycle kept me up at night with excitement. In the wake of a successful grassroots organization through technology in the 2008 Obama campaign, I had high hopes for the Republican hopefuls to launch ground-breaking and noteworthy IMC and Social Media campaigns. Unfortunately, my hopes have yet to be fulfilled. I would contend that not a single candidate has been utilizing social media to its full extent, and that these campaigns should take some pointers from the consumer marketing industry and create an exceptional social media experience if they want to grow their social presence and draw in and mobilize communities. 

Don’t get me wrong...some of these campaigns have made attempts at a social media presence, to mild success. All of the candidates have at least one Twitter account, with which they tweet fairly regularly. Mitch Romney was the first candidate to purchase “promoted tweets” and has received hundreds of retweets and thousands of clicks as a result. The Romney campaign also bought YouTube ads after N.J. Gov. Chris Christie threw his support Romney’s way. Just last week, I received a personal direct message on Twitter from the Huntsman campaign, asking me how I felt about the campaign and if I wanted to volunteer. This personal touch and appeal was an incredible idea with great execution by the Huntsman campaign. Yet, neither of these two candidates have a significant social media buzz. They get out-trended by newcomers like Herman Cain and Michele Bachmann as fickle political consumers try to learn more about these relatively unknown candidates. No one is benefiting more than anyone else from social media. No one sticks out. Their bland online presence reaffirms the guffaws of the pundits who say that no one is presidential in this mix of candidates.  

So what should they be doing differently? As politicians seeking support, donations, and eventual votes, they should be seeking out communities with their marketing strategies. How do they draw in those communities? Do ANYTHING exceptional in the social sphere. Right now, each of the candidates’ social media campaigns looks more or less the same, regular tweets to ads or articles promoting them or bashing their opponent. If just one person was willing to go outside the box and hold a contest, a big event, launch a webinar or video series worth following, anything worth following, they would draw the online political community in by storm. But if each campaign continues to be just as cookie-cutter as the next in their social media usage, the incredible potential benefits of social media in the realm of political mobilization will remain an unexciting wash.

The consumer market has just started to figure out that Social Media is the future of marketing, that the capacity for conversation and expansion of ideas using these tools is nearly endless. How much more so should our politicians see the opportunity to communicate with and mobilize their supporters? Any GOP candidate who has the tact and vision to see this trend of the modern tech-driven world deserves and has earned the support and media attention that will no doubt accompany a savvy, interesting, and compelling social media political campaign. Any maybe they'll even become the next President of the United States.

J. Ben Battaglia is an Integrated Marketing and Communications Student at Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism and has majors in Political Science and International Studies. He has worked on Capital Hill for Senator Mark Kirk and also has worked at Trilogy Interactive, a political marketing and web design company. He can be found on Twitter at @benbattaglia.

1 comment:

  1. Great blog and a fun read. You certainly have the expertise in this area. It is one politicians should read.

    Very nice job and an interesting topic