Social Media & Election Day 2015: Politicians Gone Digital!

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Politicians are utilizing social media in just about every for: pushing campaigns on Facebook, connecting and communicating with citizens on platforms like Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and more. In order to control their own messaging, take advantage of the low cost of entry and speak to voter demos who sometimes need a nudge to get to the polls (looking at you, millennials), social media usage among politicians has become as American as apple pie.

Over the past week, I spoke to and emailed with Buffalo-based political operative, writer and media relations professional Michael Caputo on his thoughts about social networking in the political world. Mr. Caputo has worked on political campaigns across the globe and can be heard sharing political commentary on WBEN 930-AM and the Daily Public podcast on TrendingBuffalo.com.

“Today, a winning campaign must have an adept social media team operating full-bore on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube,” Mr. Caputo told me. “You can’t be competitive on a statewide or national campaign without well-crafted video, audio and photoshop content. Smart campaigns are leveraging Medium and Buzzfeed and other popular content platforms. The best are finding niche audiences with Scribd and Soundcloud, too. Crunching all the resulting data to discover and define your target audience is the secret sauce.”

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Let’s take a quick look at the Erie County Executive race, where New York State Assemblyman and Republican candidate Ray Walter took to Twitter and Facebook to reach his audience. Walter — who is facing a tough incumbent, Democrat Mark Poloncarz — needed to use social media to bridge the storytelling gap between his campaign and that of his well-known, well-funded opponent.

Walter’s tactics include opinionated tweets on debates, local and national political notes and a solid share of “Buffalove” by highlighting his visits to and support of local businesses.

“Today, Walter is running at the same pace as Poloncarz and has put out far more creative social media content,” Caputo claimed. “They’ve done things I didn’t know could be done. As a practitioner, I like watching an operation that teaches me.”

Poloncarz has been active on social, too.

“Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz is pretty effective on social media. He always has been,” Mr. Caputo said. “I think he often does it himself; it looks like he enjoys it.”

Poloncarz has over 9,000 followers on Twitter and is constantly pushing content — he’s recorded over 17,000 tweets.

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Poloncarz may have learned from the best: the man in the White House. Well, his campaign team, anyway.

“On the national level, nobody compares to the campaigns of President Barack Obama,” Mr. Caputo explained. “His data-mining operation set a global standard. Gov. Mitt Romney’s 2012 operation collapsed on Election Day, contributing significantly to his loss. Today, all that 2012 winning and losing tech and all those winning and losing consultants are employed at presidential campaigns on both sides of the aisle.”

So-how do political figures find success with social media campaigns? The same way they’ve found success since the earliest days of the United States: authenticity.

“To break through the noise and make an impact on voters, campaigns need to be original and authentic,” Zach Peterson, Chief Editor of Socialbakers, wrote. “Nobody is marketed to like millennials are, and they know when they’re being marketed to.”

Authenticity is the key for social media and the buzzword for content marketing. It is the most personable and direct form of communication between politicians and the outside world, which can prove to have a great impact on results if used properly.

Still unsure? Watch this debate “Is Social Media Ruining Politics” from Boston’s HUBWeek Event at the Harvard Institute of Politics from October 9th, 2015.

Social media usage by politicians will only continue to grow. We are excited to see what’s coming next.

What are your thoughts on social media in the election? Let us know and tweet us @QuinlanCompany.

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