What the 2012 Presidential Campaign Can Teach You About Social Media.

Romney and Obama LogosThis year’s presidential campaign gives us a huge opportunity to evaluate the effectiveness of social media in all it’s iterations. One candidate embraced it and one dabbled in it. To get an overview, read Social and Anti-Social Media by Richard Parker in yesterday’s New York Times.

This analysis has particular importance to organizations like chambers of commerce and business assistance groups.

It also has much to say to small local business owners in small towns who are clinging to traditional media marketing, hoping that things will get back to normal soon.

Forget your party affiliation. This is about business

Parker points out the enormous difference between the Romney and Obama approach to marketing.

Remember, campaigning is just another word for marketing.

Romney and his financial supporters threw most of their vast resources at television, traditional media. This is where their base (customers) spends its time. And it worked well with that base. But their dabbling in all other forms of social media, where everyone else spends time couldn’t make up the difference and bring Romney a victory.

Obama, on the other hand, was everywhere. His team managed targeted, effective campaigns on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, the hangouts of young people, Asian Americans, Hispanics and women. They used email – supporters received something from the Obama campaign nearly every day for months. They used texting, keeping volunteers focused even after polls were closed and voters in long lines needed to be encouraged to stay and vote. They still relied on television advertising, but ads were highly targeted. And they advertised all over the internet.

It worked. The Obama campaign (marketing) strategy was completely successful according to post election analysis. Every demographic they targeted, they won. And they skimmed enough of the Romney campaign demographic to land a resounding victory.

What can your organization or business learn from the 2012 Presidential Campaign.

1. Know your customer including everything about the media he or she says makes his or her life better.

In the past, when you had one small town newspaper, a local radio station and three television networks with local affiliates, it was easy to reach your customer. You knew where they went for news and entertainment. You could toss something in the newspaper and go with the cheapest television or radio option and you’d reach all the customers you needed.

If you’re a little confused and angry about how much work marketing takes right now, with all the media options available and all the analysis it takes to figure out how to be where your customer is searching, remember that you’re not alone.

Think about how angry those big Romney investors are feeling, after pouring millions into an ineffective campaign. If the biggest marketing wonks in the country could get it so wrong, no wonder you’re having such a time of it!

Luckily, as I’ve pointed out in past posts, you don’t need a large variety of millions of customers to be successful. You only need a few hundred or a few thousand customers, and they’re surprisingly similar in their needs and wants that you can serve. They’re your Perfect Customers! Read more here: Small Town Tourism Marketing: What Wild Elephants Can Teach Us

2. Know how to use the social media option you choose.

Too many businesses figure that if they toss up a Facebook business page and post a few nice words or pictures, their social media work is done. It is not.

After you’ve done the work of discovering what social media your customer is using, it’s vital to learn how they use it. What makes them return to that social media channel again and again?

Again, we can learn from the campaigns. Remember, this isn’t about the political message, it’s about effective use of social media to get the message across.

First, going back to the Parker article, there is a good analysis of the difference between how the two campaigns used Facebook.  Go to Facebook and look at the Obama Facebook page and the Romney Facebook page. The differences are subtle but dramatic in their effectiveness.

The Romney campaign posted nice information about Romney and used much of their Facebook real estate to ask for donations and action. Similar to the way I see too many small business owners use Facebook.

The Obama campaign showed a deep understanding of how and why people use Facebook – to share and communicate with friends, to hear and to tell stories.

Obama’s Facebook team created community with supporters, giving them stories to share with their own group of friends. Their efforts lead to action – volunteer, donate, vote, but the calls to action on the Facebook page were well disbursed.

Both campaigns included links in most of their posts. Click a few of those links to see where they landed you. Were they varied? Did they add value and content to the story? Did they effectively ask you to take action? Did they act as an encouragement or discouragement to follow links in future posts?

One campaign lost the Facebook option and the other won. And whether you are a Dem or Republican, there is much you can learn from this. Running an effective Facebook campaign is simple, but it isn’t easy – I’ve talked about this distinction in the past:  Does “Simple and Doable” Mean Internet Marketing is Easy?

3. Don’t put all your eggs into one marketing option basket.

Brian Solis at Altimeter Group talks about social media as disruptive technology. He stresses that while it is allowing us to come together in ways never possible before, it is also disrupting the traditional forms of intercommunication.

With so many options, you can’t mindlessly assume that posting an ad somewhere will reach your customer. Romney was banking on television. He paid lip service to social media channels, assuming that traditional marketing techniques would translate to social media and it doesn’t.

The Obama campaign had done its homework. They knew who they needed to reach to put together a winning strategy. They knew where those people went to socialize, get information and share. They knew how to micro-target, using each of those channels to move their prospective customer.

They were everywhere their customer was. For you this is a whole lot simpler than for a nationwide political campaign. But you still must keep up with changes in where your customer is going to consume content and share information.

Your are fortunate in that you talk to your customers everyday. Being where your customer is searching doesn’t require focus groups and polls, it just requires a quick question while you are serving them. “Which review site to you find most useful?” “Are you on Facebook? Twitter?” “Do you like to receive email newsletters?”

Yesterday I wrote about tracking changes in your customer base over at Take Control of Your Internet Marketing. Your Customer Base Will Change, Are You Ready? Keeping your eye on the future is important. If you are following news anywhere since the election you’ve been hearing commentators warn the Republican Party about this

Resources for running effective social media campaigns.

For chambers, service organizations and business development associations I came across a wonderful resource by Appalshop, an Appalachian based arts and education organization. This downloadable pdf, Appalshop Innoation Lab Guide , is a marvelous resource for revolutionizing your use of social media channels to tell your story and share with your clients and communities. They share it under the Creative Commons license, so use it and be sure to give them credit.

And, I will end with a pitch for Take Control of Your Internet Marketing. It’s tough for you business owners to fulfill your mission and keep up with the world of internet marketing and social media. We can help you – that’s our mission. So, if you are a business, become a member and if you are an organization, we’d like to be your internet marketing partner.