Branding: When Political Campaigns Turn to Social Media

The Presidential Election 2012 is now over. Like always, it has been a long, exhausting struggle between Democrats and Republicans who made use of every possible voter encouraging sentiment to win over voters. Unlike the past 56 elections, however, the 2012 election embraced a new media of direct voter engagement at a large scale: Social media. Though emotional touch points and indiscreet bullying of the opponent have always been natural parts of any branding game, this election once and for all showed the importance of social media as a campaigning tool in political branding and communication. No wonder it has been called the first Twitter election.

 

Social media creates a sphere for political interaction

According to a recent study by PEW, around 39% of all adult Americans have engaged in either civic or political activity on social media between 1-8 times. Quintly’s live statistics on the two candidates’ Facebook pages give you real-time indication of just how big a role social media presence is playing – even now after the election. Not just in the election as such, but also in the general lives of the American population: Pushing that “like” button on any brand’s or candidate’s page is part of the creation of your social identity. This in mind, both camps have done their best to produce content that is relatable, shareable and valuable to the identity of their fans and followers on the social networks.

 

How the candidates engaged

 Not surprisingly, when looking at the two campaigns, Twitter and Facebook have been the top 2 social networks applied in both camps. Analysing the content, both candidates managed to tap into the very visual nature of Facebook and the very brief, precise world of Twitter, meanwhile keeping their target groups in mind. On Facebook, the candidate who stands for change and a modern approach on how to run America, made use of visuals with an Instagram-feel (filtered colours and artsy angles) on a Timeline totally aligned to the design style and tone of voice. The candidate who stands for a traditional, conservative take on politics and beliefs, used a visual identity that had a less polished and aligned feel and design style, by keeping to simple visuals stripped from the “hipster”-feel:

     

 

 

On Twitter, both candidates successfully reached out to voters in the same rhetoric used in the speeches and characteristic to the tone of voice of the candidate. However, experienced from the 2008 election campaign, the Obama-team showed a delicate understanding of the network when tweeting the following immediately after the much talked about Clint Eastwood chair performance:

 

Playing on every string

As a “brand” that needs to engage with a target group of great diversity, both camps did their best to play on every string they had at their disposal. They both took advantages of the gender differences between the networks as well. Michelle Obama and Ann Romney both have official profiles on the predominantly female network Pinterest, where they share recipes, photos picturing a happy marriage, a life in harmony and naturally also photos from the campaigns. The profiles very clearly depicts the values of the two candidates – but communicated to women by women.

         

 

Since the candidates represent two very different brands, they will of course focus their attention of different target groups. Looking at the huge social media attention Obama’s campaign has managed to arouse, one could conclude that being on the front-line of social media has been of great importance to his brand value. His voters (and devotees) have most definitely given him a lot of support through social media channels. Today alone, his victorious tweet quickly became the most RT tweet throughout the entire campaign. The Facebook update carrying the same visual and written message has now become the most liked photo on Facebook. Ever.

     

 

On such impressive numbers, it is fair to conclude that Obama did not only win the election – he won the social networks as well. Whether the professional integration of social media had a say at the ballot box is hard to determine. But building a likeable, shareable and relevant brand image will no matter what stick to people’s subconscious and make them open towards your message as a brand.

 

 

 

 

Clickbait: Information overload! How can brands cut-through all the noise?

Screen Shot 2016-04-12 at 10.11.34You won’t believe the hidden message in this blog post! Or rather – there isn’t one, I just wanted you to click through and read this. But bear with me – I’m about to suggest something incredibly controversial – a never-heard-before admission by a social agency!*

As much as clickbait is the emotional catnip of our online experience and can drive consistent traffic for publishers like The Daily Mail and Huff Post who churn out multiple stories each day, it’s still hugely annoying to discover you’ve been duped by an over-excited headline promising to give you all the feels. For brands, adopting the same practice can negatively affect perception and ultimately – sales. So how can brands cut through all the sensational copy and deliver successful results without falling prey to creating clickbait themselves? How do they beat them rather than join them?

 

Platform crackdown

In the early days of social, Facebook optimised content based on engagement, meaning that if users clicked on a piece of content, it received a higher ranking in newsfeeds. In 2014 Facebook took steps to try and crack down on those gaming this ranking using clickbait, and in February this year it introduced an update based not just on what users engaged with in their feed, but what they wanted to see. Facebook’s advice is that Pages should avoid encouraging people to take action (such as encouraging lots of clicks), because this will likely only cause temporary spikes in metrics that might then be rebalanced by feed’s ranking over time – meaning the latest ranking favours content that users naturally engage with rather than content that users click on through coercion.

 

Last month Instagram followed suit and announced it would alter user’s feeds to optimise the content users “care about the most”, and Twitter has also adopted a similar change (although users can opt-out and revert back to the chronological feed). The changes will hopefully make it harder for clickbaiters to game feeds with meaningless content, but the real aim for the platforms hosting is to surface more engaging content more frequently so users return often and stay longer.

 

The same goes for brands on social. If the content they produce is consistently engaging, then users will interact more frequently, leading others to discover it through preferred ranking. Ultimately, these new newsfeed algorithms exist to generate more meaningful engagement, driving not just clicks, but conversations via comments, and shares.

 

Learn and adapt

Meaningful engagement begins with relevant content that creates value for the user and the brand. While an insight-driven content strategy is key to delivering this, brands should also adapt stories and messages based on the emotional needs and behavior of their audience. This is more than just a case of ‘test and learn’ or refining what has already been done. Brands must also evolve their approach in line with new behaviors, platforms, competitors and rankings or risk being left behind by those who do.

 

A good example of a brand that does this well is Buzzfeed, who’s CEO recently shared their new strategic thinking, revealing how their objective has changed from getting users to click through to their main site to view stories, to allowing content to be consumed directly on other platforms. The new direction was prompted by analysing which content generated clicks and discovering that users prefer to consume some types of content within the platform they are already on. The company also found a discernable difference between user interactions with the same content on different platforms, demonstrating how content demand and consumption vary across sites. What spreads like wildfire on Facebook might fail miserably elsewhere.

 

Relevance is key

For brands looking to use social content to drive click-through to their site, it’s important to balance the goal of the company (clicks to eyeballs, or conversions to sales, for example) with the desire and behavior of users on different sites, and monitor response over time. Relevance is key to interaction, and brands that think like publishers will know that relevance is an ever-changing chameleon. While users are bombarded with meaningless clickbait, there is ample opportunity for brands to channel the social zeitgeist by delivering valuable content that meets audience needs in the format, time and platform that suits them. If they get this right, they won’t need clickbait.

 

At Mindjumpers we help companies and brands to think as publishers and provide end-to-end social media management across multiple markets, encompassing full social strategy, planned and reactive content creation, analysis and reporting.

 

If you’d like to find out more please get in touch.

 

*Don’t be naughty and scroll to the last paragraph – I’ve hidden the controversial part somewhere to optimize your dwell time in finding it!