If you’ve not yet heard of the Oi! (Online Influence) Conference, it’s Wales’ first Social Media Conference, which will be held on the 20th September at Celtic Manor, near Newport. While the (cheaper) early bird deadline has passed, for a measly £25 extra you will also gain access to an exclusive workshop with Mark Schaefer, the keynote speaker, the day before! Check out the details of the offer over at Tony’s blog post, then follow the links to find out more about the conference itself.
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!
Twitter is an amazingly versatile tool; the ways in which it can be used is limited only by human imagination. One of my favourite, and one of the earliest, examples of Twitter innovation is a bakery in London which used Twitter to tell potential customers when fresh goods were ready:
The system, named Baker Tweet, uses a control panel next to the oven. As bakers remove hot food, they turn a dial to select the product and press a switch. A twitter update – or “tweet” -is sent.
Londoners can follow what is happening via the Twitter name albionsoven, and more than 300 people have signed up already. “We’ve been amazed by the response. It has made a big difference to sales,” said Mr Prescott. “We generally update once a day as we don’t want to overwhelm people, but we’re now thinking of offering updates at unusual times – for instance, as we’re in Shoreditch, offering fresh bread later at night – or running special offers.”
The service was developed by Andrew Zolty at marketing firm Poke. He said: “Our office is opposite the bakery, and the idea started as an office joke – we thought it would be great to get food as soon as it comes out of the oven.”
You don’t have to look long and hard to find other interesting ways that Twitter has been used; as a cat flap monitor, to report when a baby kicks and as a crowd-sourced weather map! Those last three examples could arguably dismissed as being gimmicky/pointless, but what they do have in common is that they require creative thinking. After all, Twitter is just a tool; without our imagination then its potential cannot be realised!
On November 9th 2011, it was my passion for Twitter and social media that led me to found the first Twitter Remembrance Service. My initial thought was ‘why hasn’t this (or something similar) been done before?’ It seemed like such a simple, obvious idea to me. Yet the more I thought about it, the more developed the idea became. So our hymns were sourced from YouTube, sermons and prayers were divided into 140 character chunks, a 2 minute silence would be observed, and the names of loved ones were provided, on the fly, by our followers. Another unique element of the service was that that it was planned by people from around the UK, using nothing more than a closed Facebook group, a few emails and the occasional phone call. And the result, if I may say so myself, was astounding. On Friday morning, before the start of the service, we had over 1300 followers, which grew during the service. In total, we reached approximately 4000 people. The stream of people naming loved ones was so great that at its peak we were Reposting/Retweeting about one tweet per second! As you can probably imagine, the whole thing was very emotionally moving.
This was quite possibly the first time that Twitter had been used like this, with a significant amount of people focusing all their attention on one account in such a short space of time. Furthermore, by bringing a traditional service of Remembrance to a new audience, using a digital medium, we changed the experience of worship completely. Yet once we’d worked out the finer details, it seemed like the most natural thing in the world.
The reason I’m telling you all this is because I think that more churches, organisations and individuals should be using Twitter, or other forms of social media, to expand their reach and to bring their gifts to a new audience. This could be as simple as providing a Twitter summary of the weekly sermon, or delivering an entire pre-planned service. And if you, or someone you know, has the skills to implement this, why not? I will close by giving you a few hints and starting points:
- Think about what your church, your organisation or you can offer to the world. Is it the power of your message, the diversity of opinions represented by your community, or a fresh look on real-world problems? Whatever it is, decide how this could be communicated using social media.
- Look at other ways that Christianity is represented on social media. Two good starting points are Natwivity and Online Carols, but also see what churches and organisations are doing on a daily basis.
- ‘Branding’ is very important. Make it very clear to potential followers who you are and what you’re about.
- Finally, if you think that your idea has potential, or you’ve found a gap that needs filling, go for it! You’ll be amazed what you can achieve!