Harnessing the Power of Twitter for Politics…Without Getting Burned
With 100 million active users, more than 10 times the number of active users during the 2008 election, Twitter has become a powerhouse for information dissemination. It is a powerful medium to relay information and to get supporters to do the same. But what makes Twitter so powerful also makes it risky.
Twitters Amplification Power
Its easy to find examples of ill-timed or accidentally published tweets that end up getting picked up by the press, with varying degrees of severity. From Anthony Weiners career-shattering failure to send a direct message, to an employee who posted to the Secret Service account rather than a personal one, sometimes incidents like these end disastrously, and sometimes they dont go anywhere. But a gaffe doesnt have to occur on Twitter for it to go viral on Twitter.
For example, in a February 1st interview on CNN, Mitt Romeny told anchor Soledad OBrien, “I’m not concerned about the very poor. We have a safety net there.” Though Romney went on to say that he was focused on the middle class, his comments were on Twitter within seconds, making the rounds among journalists, other politicians and political junkies. Within the hour Romenys team had reached out in an attempt to stem the tide of negative press.
Twitter presents a unique opportunity to address an issue and try to bring the messaging around to your terms, even if the issue occurs outside of the platform.
The Obama re-election campaign recently announced it will be organizing a truth team comprised of supporters. The goal is to have truth team members combat anti-Obama messages and share Obamas accomplishments around the web.
Mobilizing grassroots supporters to spread the campaigns messages is one powerful strategy to amplify reach. However its not without its risks. You can makes suggestions, but ultimately cannot control the messaging used by your evangelists. The Obama campaign is well aware of both sides of the Twitter coin. Campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt told the New York Times that with twitter, [y]ou catch problems earlier, but things havent gone through a filter, so youre almost playing Whac-a-Mole to shoot things down.
Social media is an incredibly powerful way for an impassioned group to mobilize, but this may not always work in your favor. Just ask the Susan G. Komen Foundation.
When the breast cancer research organization announced its decision to cease providing funds to Planned Parenthood, protestors flocked to Twitter and Facebook to voice their outrage. Komen remained silent for forty-eight hours. That silence was their fatal mistake.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, Planned Parenthoods marketing team took to Twitter and capitalized on Komens PR lapse. They purchased promoted tweets to appear in relevant search queries. Here’s one of Planned Parenthood’s promoted tweets: Please RT: Women’s lives can’t afford to be caught up in political battles. Add your name if you #standwithPP #komen
Planned Parenthood raised $400,000 from over 6,000 online donors within 24 hours of Komens announcement. As of February 4th, Planned Parenthood had raised $3 million.
When using Twitter to amplify your messaging, make sure to remember that you cede control. The Obama campaign knows it, but believes the potential reward outweighs the risk. Take a lesson from the Romney campaign and from Planned Parenthood. When reacting to a Twitter crisis, act and act fast. Whatever you do, do not remain silent. Thats one strategy guaranteed to fail.