First thing’s first: social media can (or rather should) only ever be part of a larger campaign strategy; no one is going to get elected simply by endlessly Tweeting, blogging or Facebooking until they’re red in the face. But social media, if used well, can bolster your physical campaign, get you noticed and, hopefully, win you more votes. Of course, every single candidate will have a Facebook group and/or event with hundreds if not thousands of members, clogging up everyone’s News Feeds and contributing to the giant melting pot of noise and spam that is Elections Week on Facebook. But not everyone will be using Twitter, and of those who do not everyone will be using it effectively. With this in mind, I’ve compiled a few tips to help CUSU Elections candidates and their campaign teams to make the most of Twitter:
Twitter (or any other form of social media) is a very different ballgame to the real world. Making as much noise as possible simply won’t work unless you’re willing to join the conversation and get involved. Here’s a few things you can do:
- Search for tweets using the #ElectionsCSU hashtag, and use this hashtag in your own tweets. You should also reply to tweets containing this hashtag, but don’t spam or you’ll end up blocked.
- Follow and engage with election-related accounts, including the official @DemocracyCSU account, the current sabbatical team and influential commentators such as the brilliant and often hilarious @electwit, who has been providing sardonic yet informative coverage of CUSU Elections since at least 2010.
- Although this might seem counter-intuitive at first, selectively tweet about other candidates (not necessarily your own rivals!) and their slogans, banners, posters and campaign strategies. It will show that you’re not a complete egomaniac and hopefully they’ll return the favour!
- Presence is everything.
How you appear online is just as important as how you appear when campaigning in person. So make the most of the tools available to you:
- Twitter Bio: Although you’ve only got 160 characters to play with, a good bio can make all the difference. Make it clear who you are, what position you’re running for and what you stand for. If you have any room left, link to your video manifesto (use a link shortener like bit.ly) to reinforce your message.
- Website: If you have a campaign website, you don’t need me to tell you that it should go here. Otherwise, link to your online manifesto.
- Profile Picture: If you have a campaign logo, this is the place to put it. Alternatively, use an image that has something to do with your campaign, be that your face, a campaign gimmick or even your poster design.
- Location: If it’s short enough, this would be a good place to put your campaign slogan.
- Username: This is a very personal decision, but the best usernames are short and distinctive. If your campaign slogan incorporates your own name then you can probably get away with having your name as your username. Otherwise, this is a good place to use part of your slogan or a campaign gimmick. For those who already have a Twitter username, consider starting a new account or temporarily changing your username for the purposes of the elections, but again this is up to you.
- Background: Use your campaign poster here. If you don’t have the digital version, email elections at cardiff dot ac dot uk to have it sent to you.
- Profile Design: For bonus points, make your profile match the colours of your poster/campaign logo.
- Content, content, content.
If you want to gain followers and get noticed, you have to catch people’s attention with interesting and varied content. Here are a few ideas:
- Tweet photos of you, your campaign team, your banner, the lecture hall you’re about to give a shout-out to, the view from the crossroads, whatever you think will add interest.
- Videos are even better! Share your video manifesto as often as possible, and you can take things further by making your own campaign video and uploading it to YouTube. Other video ideas include flashmobs, lecture shouts and vox-pop style interviews ( “I’m voting for X because …). Whatever you do, use your imagination and don’t be afraid to think outside the box! In terms of what platforms to use, pick YouTube for pre-recorded/edited videos and use your smartphone to send out spontaneous footage whilst out campaigning.
- Vary your content by retweeting endorsements from friends, and retweet more general tweets from election-related accounts (see the Engage section of this post for where to look for these).
- Don’t forget to tell people how and where to vote!
- Don’t go it alone.
- Ask friends and supporters to tweet about you, retweet you, or preferably both. Do this regularly until voting closes.
- By all means give your Twitter password to members of your campaign team, but make sure to lay down some basic communications guidelines to keep things consistent.
- You can boost your exposure by asking local businesses, club promoters, societies, sports clubs to retweet you. However, remember that the election rules state that no external businees or organisation is allowed to provide benefits to one candidate unless they are also willing to offer the same benefit to all other candidates. In other words, if the only reason a club promoter is willing to retweet you is because one of your mates is a club rep, don’t do it. As always, if in doubt ask for clarification by emailing elections at cardiff dot ac dot uk or by speaking to Jemma Mallorie, before you Tweet.
- If you have any Twitter-obsessed friends, ask them for advice on your campaign. They will be able to tell you if you’re committing any unforgivable faux-pas and suggest more ideas for you to try.
- Some final tips:
- Keep it positive: starting a Twitter hate campaign against one of your rivals isn’t going to win you any votes. Quite the opposite, in fact.
- Have fun: Just like your real-world campaign, don’t take yourself too seriously. If you can make people laugh or smile whilst also telling them to vote for you, then you’re more likely to get noticed, followed, retweeted and talked about.
- Keep it real: Tweeting into the ether with no one following you is a waste of time. So, if you haven’t already, add your Twitter username to your banner and your Facebook group/event. You could also tell people to follow you on Twitter during lecture shouts and when you talk to individual people and hand out flyers. Shout it from the crossroads if you must!
I hope that you’ve found these tips useful and informative. If nothing else, I hope that it convinces you to embrace Twitter as part of your campaign. Campaigning in CUSU Elections will be one of the most challenging and exhausting experiences in your life (after marriage, kids and actually performing the role to which you’ve been elected, of course), and to win you need to exploit every single opportunity available to you. Leave no stone unturned, and don’t be afraid to think outside the box.
Finally, if you’d like any more advice from me* then post a comment here or send me a Tweet. I’d be delighted to help in any way I can 🙂
*For the benefit of any election monitors who might be reading this post, I am offering this service for free and to any candidate who asks for it, as long as they ask nicely!