Social Media is not just a campaign tool.

It’s municipal election time, in British Columbia. If you are on Social Media, you are starting to see invitations to Like or Follow a political candidate, as political candidates have all jumped on the “Social Media as a Campaign Tool” band wagon. There is no doubt that Social Media is a great tool for reaching out and getting your message to the masses, but, as one candidate has recently discovered, there is life (in your Social Media accounts) after the campaign.

What Was Old is New Again

It is not unusual to see parody accounts pop up, during a political campaign, spoofing a candidate and pretending to be them in the Social Media conversation. One only needs to look at the content of the posts to know that the account is probably not an “sanctioned” one of the candidate. However, when a former account, long forgotten after a previous campaign, is hacked and hijacked, this is a different matter. Now the old conversations are mixed in with the new ones, making the candidate look as if they have gone off message and into a space reserved for crack pots and trolls. Kelowna Mayoral candidate, Sharon Shepherd, discovered this when a Twitter account, used back in her 2011 campaign effort, came alive, again, following her announcement that she was running for Mayor of Kelowna. Her campaign team was quick to contact Twitter 10723370_950838228265868_259275487_nand tell them about the account (which was subsequently removed, but has since appeared, again). Local users of Twitter were quick to recognize that the account had been abandoned following Ms. Shepherd’s loss in the 2011 election, but the mystery as to the new “administrator” of the account remained. While the Shepherd campaign team moved rapidly to head off the account and the inevitable media coverage, the damage was already done. Focus was taken away from the candidates message and refocused on the parody account and conversation. The problem was further compounded by the candidate forgetting to renew her Web domain, which was snapped up and redirected less than flattering video (this has also been resolved by her campaign team, who appear to be VERY vigilant of the online conversation).

Plan Beyond the Campaign

Win or lose, those entering the political arena need to look at Social Media as something more than just a campaign tool. Like a business, their Social Media presence is representing them as a brand and anything that is negative can, potentially, affect that brand. Can you picture Coca-Cola abandoning their Social Media presence, if they didn’t win the bid to be the sponsor of the Olympics or the World Cup? Of course not. They are more than aware that the need that ongoing presence for their future efforts and marketing and potentially giving their competition a chance to snap up their presence would be batsh**t crazy. Social Media is one of the greatest communications tools in the history of man, connecting people and communities, both locally and globally. For those politicians who win their seats and abandon their Social Media presence, they are basically saying to those who followed them, “I won. I don’t have to listen or talk to you, again, for another 3 or 4 years”. For those who lose and abandon their accounts, they are essentially saying “I wasn’t really interested in what you wanted to say and now that I have lost, I’m even less interested”. A candidate that continues to use and engage with the population AFTER the election is more likely to maintain that voter relationship into the next election, than their less engaged competitors. More than that, an engaged politician is more likely to know what the people he/she represents want, and act accordingly, over the politician that says he/she knows what the people want, but really has no idea.

Remember, it’s called SOCIAL Media

I have seen some political accounts carry on, beyond the campaign. For the most part, they are one way conversations with little or no Screen Shot 2014-10-13 at 6.15.20 AMengagement by the person the account represents. Some, however, continually engage in conversation, usually via their personal accounts or blogs. Al Siebring, a municipal councillor on Vancouver Island, is one of those active users of Social Media, perhaps as a result of his years in radio broadcast journalist. His active presence means that more people know what is happening, behind the scenes, thus making them more informed about the processes that lead to the decisions and the future of the community he is representing. During his recent visit to the annual UBCM (Union of British Columbia Municipalities) conference, it was interesting to watch his online comments about meetings and presentations being made. Even more interesting was learning from the conversations those posts generated. As he heads into another election campaign, his already active presence will benefit him, greatly. This is an engagement level that all politicians should aspire to.

Plan. Create. Execute. Follow Up.

In all my presentations on using Social Media in marketing and promotion, I always talk about 4 key elements in a Social Media campaign and presence; Plan. Create. Execute. Follow Up. For politicians going online, the same 4 things apply. Plan a pre-election, post election strategy. Create a presence that is full of engaging images and content. Execute the plan pre and post election and Follow Up during both phases, win or lose. There are multiple, positive, results from following this strategy, not the least of which is the assurance that the only person representing your brand, is you.