In a world dominated by social media influencers, few people have risen to establish channels that boast thousands, if not millions of followers. Through these channels, the most popular influencers have the capability to share their brand with millions of people in the blink of an eye, providing for themselves annual incomes well over 7 figures. Ranging from specializations in fashion to travel, it is virtually possible for anyone with a smartphone to rise to influencer status, including politicians.
Emerging as a game changer, social media allows newcomers to have an immediate and accessible way to communicate with voters. Traditionally, current office holders have a monopoly over the media, as they have established connections with reporters to put them in the forefront of the news. However, with the rise of social media, it allows newcomers to circumvent traditional media and gain as much traction with reporters and voters if they can get followers.
Some candidates struggle with gaining a social media presence while others sore to the top, allowing them to have the attention of voters, and therefore a competitive edge. The most notable examples of political social media giants that have risen to prominence in the past few years include Utah Governor Spencer Cox, Senator Bernie Sanders (D-VT), Former President Donald Trump and Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio- Cortez (D-NY). So what sets these social media titans apart from other politicians?
The answer is simple: personality.
What many politicians fail to realize is that people hate politics, and therefore they do not connect with politicians on social media, but they connect with people. This is ultimately what sets Cox, Sanders, Trump and Ocasio- Cortez apart. In between the policy updates and fundraising asks, they engage their target audience by sharing sneak peaks of their personal lives and personalities, and that is what people love about them.
Even before he was Governor, Spencer Cox was still showing his sense of humor on Twitter.
Spencer cox will actively comment on sporting events and share articles that he thought were impactful or funny. Sanders has identified his brand value of being a man of the people, regularly sharing and promoting the memes that are made by his supporters. Trump says what is on his mind about any topic and often replies to his followers. Even though his style may be brash, America loves drama. If that weren’t the case, Trump wouldn’t have originally made a name for himself being in tabloids or on reality T.V. Ocasio-Cortez takes these practices even a step farther by partnering up with influencers on Twitch that have the ear of her target audience to livestream popular video games with them such as Among Us.
They aren’t politics all of the time, and because of that, voters want to connect with Cox, Sanders, Trump and Ocasio- Cortez because they see them as regular, everyday people just like them. By showing personality, it builds trust with voters, and they are more likely to engage with you if they trust you.
AOC takes a step away from politics to engage with her voters on their level.
In order to identify what value you offer voters, you need to be able to answer two things:
What is my brand?
How does my brand bring value to voters?
Whether you are a doctor, teacher, mom, small business owner, veteran, lawyer, pageant winner or simply someone who cares about what’s happening in their community and wants to change it, there is something special about you that will resonate with voters. This is your brand.
After Inauguration, Bernie Sanders took a viral meme of him and used it to raise $1.8 Million for Meals on Wheels Vermont.
To identify how your brand brings value to voters, you need to know what they care about. This is normally done through polling (which you should always do if you can), but if that is not an option, reading reliable news sources, attending local city council meetings and taking the time to have conversations with the people in your district can help provide you with that insight. Once you know those two things, match them up.
If you are a stay at home mom who has been a foster parent in the past, and you know voters care about the welfare of their children, focus on policies that have that in mind. Talk about education and bettering foster care. Share pictures of your children excelling in their after school activities and how proud you are of them, be vulnerable and talk about your experiences fostering children and where you believe the system needs improvement.
Similarly, if you are a doctor, focus on your expertise in health care. Whether voters are worried about covid, clean air, health insurance, etc, there are a slew of topics you have authority to speak on. To break up the policy chatter, try posting interesting medical facts or pictures of you helping patients.
Beyond that if your community loves sports and you do too, don’t be afraid to comment on the annual BYU vs. Utah showdown. If your community loves the outdoors, post pictures of you hiking or fishing. If you find a funny news article or meme (granted it’s not inappropriate), take the chance and post it, you may be shocked how people respond. Remember to be authentically you at all times.
For better or for worse, Donald Trump always said what was on his mind.
But most importantly, respond to your voters. If a voter asks you a question, answer it. If they leave a comment on one of your posts, like it. If you notice a voter posted something that caught your eye, comment on it.
Aside from personality, Cox, Sanders, Trump and AOC understand the importance of regularly engaging with their voters. People know that these influencers are directly communicating with them, and that’s another reason why their followers trust them.
I cannot stress the importance of hiring campaign staff to ensure your social media messaging stays on brand and to run daily social media operations. Not only can they catch bad posts before they go viral for the wrong reasons, but if you are campaigning properly you will also not have time to curate daily posts in between knocking doors, calling voters and fundraising. However, it is important that you make the time to post pictures of your dog, respond to constituent questions, repost things you found interesting or funny, and give live updates after town halls and committee meetings.
If you only show up on social media during campaign season to beg for votes and money while barraging people with policy posts, you will have just as good of a response rate as your friend from high school that keeps asking you to get involved in their next big MLM opportunity. That is why showing your personality through your brand is the key to social media success: voters won’t see you as a nuisance, they will see you as a trusted friend.
Here at RPC we can help you develop your brand and unlock more secrets to winning the hearts of your voters. If you are ready to run for office, reach out to us today.