*This is one in a series of "Hackathon" projects that Student Strategy Team members put together throughout the course of the 2016-2017 school year.
The Problem: Candidates and elected officials don’t take full advantage of social media
The Solution: A “Social Media Playbook” that contains guidelines for managing accounts across three major social media platforms
Date: April 21, 2017
Throughout the last semester, we analyzed how social media is increasingly important in communicating policies, maneuvering politics, and spreading news. Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook connect billions of people around the world, making them as important as many more-traditional news outlets. Especially after the 2016 election, a strong social media campaign is a must for any serious politician.
While social media may now be a crucial part of politics, this does not mean that politicians are adapting well. Campaigns and elected officials deal with a predicament: despite the fact that social media must be planned carefully to stay on message, posts must appear genuine to garner a following.
The Trump campaign demonstrated one end of this spectrum with tweets at three in the morning. While undoubtedly genuine and regularly viral, they caused issues when important policy and messaging decisions seemed to be made on the fly. They give the impression of a disorganized White House when different spokespeople are voicing different opinions.
The opposite end of the spectrum was the Clinton campaign. The polished social media releases coming from the campaign pushed the campaign’s message in a highly-controlled manner. While this prevented any catastrophes like those seen from the Trump campaign, it also appeared transparent. Tweets and Facebook posts had little personality and did not attain the necessary reach.
We realized that there must be a middle ground between these two poles. Having a genuine and exciting social media presence does not necessitate scandal, and getting your message out can be interesting. We decided to look for examples of good practices in social media--politicians that people enjoy following.
This is the inspiration for our Social Media Playbook. With sections devoted to each of the major social media platforms--Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram--it serves as a guide with examples of positive and negative conduct. These case studies are accompanied by more general suggestions such as tapping local interests and using graphics frequently. The goal is a balanced social media presence which draws followers and promotes the candidate’s message at the same time.
Written by a group of millennials who unabashedly spend too much of their time on social media, this playbook will allow even local officials to develop their media presence. While presidential campaigns and the White House have entire teams devoted to communication and social media, frequently on a local level there may be one or no people in charge of social media. The playbook will allow politicians in smaller positions to raise their profile and potentially jump-start their careers in a way that previously was only accomplished via important speeches.
We hope that this playbook will even out the playing field in social media. While a powerful tool, we also do not believe that social media should be the deciding factor in elections. By creating this guide, hopefully future politicians will not be elected based on their ability to have a “funny” twitter, but on their true merits.
The Playbook will be delivered via email to the offices of the most important elected and appointed public officials all over the country every time they take office. Our clients’ universe contains 500,000 offices, including:
- The President and Vice-President of the United States.
- 50 Governors.
- 20,000 local Mayors.
- 100 Senators.
- 435 Representatives.
- 7,383 State Legislators.
- 120,000 Members of City Councils.
- 4,000 Secretaries and Authorities of Government Agencies.
- 812 Members of the Judiciary (Supreme Court, Courts of Appeals, and District Courts).
- 350,000+ other public officers in the three levels of government.
The Playbook will be constantly updated, with new trends or technology in social media and with the feedback of our users and the social media community. It will also be open to public, available for free in our website.
The Student Strategy Team of Julian Colombo, Roopa Mulpuri, Andrew Straky, Noah Ramsey, and Martin Perez Baertl were advised by Jen Psaki, Director of Communications and Senior Advisor to the President and GU Politics Spring 2017 Fellow.