Political consultants (such as those from The Action Company) need to use social media to help their national and statewide candidates for office establish a brand for themselves. But social media offers many ways to get in trouble -- from ill-considered posts to hasty replies directed at user questions to harassing comments left by anonymous hecklers, there are many opportunities to make mistakes.
In addition, the return on investment in both time and money may not be worth it for some candidates. While most political advisors prefer that their candidates take advantage of the inexpensive marketing that social media allows, time and the cost of a staff member's time to post may hinder an effective social media presence for your candidate.
If you do decide to use social media for your candidate, there are some things to consider.
Your Candidate's Ideology
According to Pew Research findings, more people who consider themselves to be liberal are more likely to "like" political pages, share political content or encourage others to vote or take a particular action. In a 2012 study, 52 percent of liberal Democrats had liked or promoted political content compared to 42 percent of conservative Republicans. However, nearly as many Republicans -- 41 percent vs. 42 percent of Democrats -- had posted about their own thoughts regarding a candidate or issue.
Your candidate's social media strategy may depend on his or her political party. You may get more mileage out of social media if your candidate is liberal, as Democrats are more likely to like or follow your candidate's social media accounts and to share your information with others.
Determining Who Will Post
Social media is an inexpensive way to market a candidate, even one for a smaller office. It doesn't take a lot of time or expertise to set up social media accounts.
But the tricky part is determining what kind of content should appear and what settings should be activated to permit others to post and share. You will also need to decide who will act as the voice of the campaign on social media accounts.
In order to properly utilize social media tools, it's likely that you'll need at least a part-time person who is skilled at interacting with others and communicating via social media. The candidate may not have the time or the proper understanding of communicating via social media to handle this alone.
Deciding How Often To Post
You will also need to come up with a plan for types of posts and frequency of posting. With a smaller race, frequent posts may not be required.
One strategy is to set up accounts and post a couple of times each week so that the accounts show activity, and thus add credibility to the campaign. Posts might include information about in-person appearances or links to more information on the candidate's website. These may not be ideal ways to use social media, but you aren't investing large amounts of time that may not pay off.
Using social media tools to have conversations with voters can be a great thing but it can also be time-consuming and ultimately gain fewer votes than other, more traditional ways of political marketing, like door-to-door campaigning or participating in debates.