Social Media Lessons From Politicians

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whitman_smallADOTAS – What do Meg Whitman (for California Governor), a local tanning salon, a bar and a coffee shop have in common?

Each one is using a social media platform to gain interest in the form of voters or customers. According to the recently released “Digital Influence Index” study, regular use of social media (e.g. tweeting or Facebook updates) produces increased trust in a business. Through social media, politicians are gaining the trust of their potential voters, and businesses are gaining the trust of their customers.

There is a very fine line (if any) that is drawn between a political campaign and an advertising campaign. With the 2010 elections for congress, senate and governor upon us, political candidates are using social media to generate campaign awareness and reach potential voters.

Back in 2008, President Obama used social media to spread his message and target young voters; the largest segment of social media users. Now, we see local candidates use this strategy to reach voters on a local level. SMBs can also use these social media techniques to drive customers to their storefronts.

1. Reach a Local Audience

Politicians: Local politicians need to get elected (or re-elected) by local voters. To do this, they are using social media to reach people who are already registered voters in their respective state, city, town or county (or are legally able to become registered).

SMBs: Similarly, the ultimate goal of an advertising campaign is to gain customers. SMBs can use social media platforms to target people in their area that are more likely to convert into a customer. For example, a local auto repair shop in Dallas should target people in the greater Dallas area. Followers and friends outside their geographic coverage area are less likely to become a customer, given that this business operates locally.

2. Be Highly Targeted

Politicians: Potential voters for these politicians are not only local in nature, but they are also genuinely interested in what the politicians have to say. Members of Meg Whitman’s fan page and followers on her Twitter page have opted-in because they have curiosity invested in her and want to know what’s happening on a daily basis.

In the example below, Whitman’s status update about attending a water-recycling facility created an outstanding number of “likes” and comments from people interested in her campaign. Whitman, much like many other politicians, is using tweets and status updates to promote appearances and events before, and, as they are happening.

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SMBs: Similar social media tactics can be implemented here. SMBs should be targeting followers and friends that can evolve into a true customer base; not adding hundreds of random people just to increase their presence. Targeting the right customer will provide a greater ROI.

3. Keep Them Interested

Politicians: Social media allows politicians to easily keep their followers up-to-date on press events. In the example below, President Obama announced a live web chat where people could ask questions regarding energy and climate issues. By providing frequent updates in regards to information that concerns citizens, voters are more likely to stay interested and involved.

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SMBs: In a similar fashion, social SMBs can keep their customers intrigued though ongoing updates, special offers or even a free coffee for commenting on their page. These are small and easy ways to get customers in the door and keep them coming back for more.

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Give Them Something to Talk About

Politicians: As we all know, politics is a conversational topic. Candidates are using these platforms to find out people’s opinions, and then, responding as they happen. Politicians have a lot invested in voter opinions, and they take this more seriously than most businesses. To get more voters, politicians have to maintain their credibility while also spreading the word of mouth.

Recently, President Obama visited Racine, WI. U.S. Congressman, Paul Ryan, saw Wisconsin’s reaction to the President’s speech and immediately interacted on Facebook. This resulted in a slew of comments from voters who had the same concerns.

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Just one hour later, Ryan also responded with the following post showing he was aware of their concerns.

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Through dialogue, candidates are able to comment on thoughts they agree on, add insight to solve a problem and combat negative discussions.

SMBs: In the same manner, local businesses need to react to customer reviews and comments; both the good and the bad. AJ Bombers, a local bar and restaurant in Milwaukee, WI, took initiative to help ease the concerns of complaining customers, as well as showed appreciation for customers that give them a positive shout out on their Facebook page.

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This is a great example of how SMBs can use social media to monitor consumer opinions and reviews, and, ultimately spark conversation about their business. Most agree that the best form of advertising is word-of-mouth. Today, customers are using social media to do just that by finding and spreading information about local businesses.

Finally, Keep it Going

The community has been built, the relationships have been formed and now the election is over. Politicians don’t stop there. After Election Day, they keep their voters involved through their term because these voters may also help re-elect them in the future.

SMBs should do the same. There is no “set it and forget it.” Successful social media engagements are very much like search engine optimization; ongoing and ever-changing. Finally, don’t forget that your Facebook fans and Twitter followers may very well be your best customers that keep coming back for more.

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