We’re currently seeing the first U.S. presidential campaign in history in which social media is a core part of both major political parties’ strategies. Back in 2008, Barack Obama’s campaign energized and mobilized the younger voters that were such a huge part of Facebook’s user base. This time around, his opponent got the picture early. In fact, we noted recently in “Politics in Social Media: Who’s Winning the Facebook Election?” that Republican challenger Mitt Romney’s Facebook page was seeing a significantly better engagement rate among its fans than the president’s page.
The catch is, Facebook isn’t just for younger people anymore. It’s a default form of communication and media sharing for a huge cross-section of the population. The Democratic and Republican conventions are over, the campaign trail is on fire and it’s time for both sides to drive their messages to the audiences they need to win over before November. Right now, Romney is falling behind among female voters, and the young adult demographic is in play. One might expect Romney would reach beyond Facebook and ramp up its efforts on Twitter and Pinterest, where those two demographics are spending so much time these days. But the thing is, he’s not.
Twitter’s user base is 59-percent female, and its largest age demographic is the group aged 18 to 29. It would seem to be a prime opportunity to communicate to female and younger voters. However, in a recent Mashable interview, Romney’s digital director, Zac Moffatt, explained his campaign uses @MittRomney “sparingly because it’s ‘the most popular thing we have branded online, and we need to be careful about how we incorporate his voice.'”
Really? The strategy involves using your “most popular” online branding tool “sparingly?” That seems like an unorthodox way to use a platform characterized by brevity and a high on-screen message turnover. Romney’s Twitter account totals just over 1,100 tweets, a far cry from @BarackObama’s more than 6,000. Rather than hustling, it looks like Team Romney is conceding defeat on the Twitter front.
Pinterest is the fastest growing social network of 2012, and nearly 80 percent of its users are female. Again, it would appear to be a prime spot to speak to a rapt key audience. But instead, Romney’s campaign uses Pinterest sparingly and primarily through the candidate’s wife, Ann Romney. Between the two of them, they have around 225 pins. While pinning itself may not generate significant attention, the fact that a crucial demographic – women — dominates Pinterest, combined with the referral power of traffic (Pinterest is ranked fourth behind only Google, Facebook and Yahoo), should suggest this is a place the Romney campaign itself would want to spend more strategic time.
Social media is the new “meet-and-greet bus tour.” Just like going from town to town and working the crowd at each event stop, a political campaign can use Twitter and Pinterest strategically to reach out to, engage and “shake hands” with potential swing voters. The Romney team could post to Twitter and Pin to Pinterest with messages clearly aimed at the young adult and female demographics. Both avenues can help to built traffic to other digital assets through links and image click-throughs. And because of the high profile of the election, the mere act of being persistent and vocal through a campaign social account would spark attention, positive or negative, which can be used to the campaign’s advantage.
There’s a second, and perhaps even stronger, strategy Team Romney could implement, using both Twitter and Pinterest, but tied to Facebook. The Romney team has keyed on Facebook with their social strategy and they are using Facebook Timeline posts as a publishing tool, keying on the current strength of posting images in the News Feed. So why not leverage the existing Facebook strategy and create synergy with expansion of reach by sharing at least some of those same images on Pinterest and Twitter, linking back to their Facebook Page? Use the power of retweets and repins, with each share carrying the potential of greater reach on each of those platforms, while bringing those visitors back to the campaign’s hub on Facebook, where they have a chance of further engaging the demographic in play.
The election will be decided not only by what the winner does, but what the loser didn’t think to do. An active Facebook presence is practically required for entry, but are its Twitter and Pinterest presences Team Romney’s sins of omission?