Last week campaign insiders, political communicators, advocates and of course media vendors gathered in DC for the 2012 Campaign Tech conference. At the end of day two, all of us realized the media landscape for the 2012 election cycle has evolved so much since just two years ago. American media consumption habits are changing for one. A quick snapshot shows us that this year Americans spent 53.5 billion minutes of Facebook, 70% of voters in SC used the internet as their main source for news during 2012 presidential primary, and 1 in 20 people check their email more an 20 times a day. The bottom line being Americans are online, A LOT! The overwhelming realization is, in fact, that digital media must be at the forefront of this election cycle. Perhaps the most interesting point of discussion at the conference this year was that social media really changes the way we think about the influential voter.
For years, and still today, campaigns pull home addresses and phone numbers of past campaign supporters and campaign donors; people who they know support their candidate. Campaign volunteers and staffers spend hours calling these phone numbers and encouraging continued support and generous donations. Carefully scripted direct mail pieces are drafted and strategically sent to these same individuals reminding them to fulfill their civic duty and vote on Election Day. Before digital, the way in which we could reach people was not as sophisticated. In the traditional space we put ads on TV and radio station we know our party’s supporters are watching and listening to and place our ads on the front pages of the local newspapers. The idea was to influence our supporters to spread the word. But now are the influential voters the ones you can reach through the traditional space? Maybe, but the opportunity to be influential grows immensely as we tune into social media.
The internet is a breeding ground for influencers, specifically in the social space. Sites like Twitter, Facebook, and Google + were built to connect people, but these social giants have grown into powerful platforms for persuasion. 92% of consumers surveyed by Nielson said they trust completely/somewhat recommendations from people they know and 70% trust consumer opinions posted online. That is compared to 47% who trust TV ads and 46% who trust Newspaper ads. So getting connected to the right people online will help you boost your creditability. Furthermore, a study done by ExactTarget reported that through twitter and other social networks- 72% of consumers publish blog posts each month, 70% comment on blogs, 33% use social media to share opinions, 32% make recommendations and 30% seek guidance and direction. That brings me to my final point that there is not just “one” type of social consumer. Just like people have different personalities and habits in real life, the same goes for online. Here is simple breakdown of the different “types” of social personas.
The Sharers- These people have large networks with many followers on Twitter and Facebook. The reason? They love to share content, opinions and facts and data they find online. Getting something engaging in front of this social constituent will most definitely start a domino effect as they spread this content throughout their social networks. They are likely to be connected to other sharers are well.
The Creators- There are the reporters and the bloggers of the world. The ones who have opinions and want to create their own content surrounding topics they care about. They will take something you have said and develop additional content- some may be negative, but any PR is good PR right? Don’t be afraid of the “Creators.”
The Participators- Similar to the sharers and the creators, these are the people who participate in conversations that are happening online by commenting, liking and sometimes also sharing content. They are more apt to make their own voice heard rather than sharing the opinions of others. However, they steer away from creating their own content; rather using the information and attitudes they find online as a platform to launch their voice.
The Listeners- The most passive but possibly the most important social media persona is the Listener. They are the watchdogs of the social space, observering and absorbing a variety of messages and personal outlooks and attitudes of other social media consumers. They are most important because they don’t often reveal their reactions to the various content they are consuming. We as campaign advertisers must work to control the content as best we can in front of these consumers making sure a combination of positive influence and strong campaign messaging reaches them.
It’s certainly not a waste to be continuing to seek support through traditional efforts, but its imperative we identify and activate our social influencers online. Start by following your followers and figure out what category they fall in, get the right messages in front of the right people and watch the power of social unfold before you.