Building an Online Presence for the Era of Perpetual Campaigning
It’s now more important than ever for Democratic municipal officials to maintain a consistent online presence. We’re living in the age of the never-ending election cycle, where attacks don’t end in November and competition for attention is always fierce. By engaging online, maintaining your website, and contributing to social media throughout your term, you can ensure that your constituents have the right image of you before you launch your reelection campaign.
Consistency is key to maintaining control of this image and your message as well. Blogging regularly, sharing news on social media, updating your website, and steadily building your mailing list are all invaluable ways of keeping on message. They also serve to solidify a positive image of yourself as a leader in your community.
While it is important to remain consistent, it is equally important to know which tactics are a constructive use of your time. The following pointers will help you start building and maintaining your year-round image and message.
Your website should be the first place people head to when they think of you. Consider having your campaign set up a separate, year-round website that can welcome everyone in your community, regardless of whether they supported you during your campaign. You can share local resources and inform visitors of the services your office provides.
Be sure your campaign homepage invites visitors to donate and to sign up for your mailing list. Your campaign site needs to be able to collect visitor email addresses and accept donations, preferably without visitors being directed to another page. To reach the most visitors, look at Google’s webmaster resources on search engine optimization and accessibility on mobile devices.
Blogging is a great way to project your message online while also driving traffic to your website. Writing and sharing local stories will engage readers in your city, while weighing in on topics of interest within the Democratic party can build your reputation as an official who takes a stance on important issues. Mix it up so that your blog contains some original writing from you, photos from local events, and guest contributions.
Every time you post, whether it is a quick update, a long opinion piece, or anything in between, be sure you share on all of your social media outlets, especially Twitter and Facebook. Followers who click on your link will be taken to your blog, where they will read your content and increase your blog’s traffic. If your blog is integrated into your website, which I would recommend, then you will also be driving traffic to your website at the same time.
Growing a mailing list can be tedious, but it is essential to growing a network of supporters before your reelection campaign. In addition to asking visitors to provide their email address, bring sign-up sheets to every event you hold or attend, making sure that one of your volunteers or staffers has every attendee leave their name and email address. This is one of the easier but important ways to bring voters who meet you in the real world into your online network.
Social Media (Facebook and Twitter)
There are now more social media outlets than ever before, but for our purposes today, we’ll stick to Facebook and Twitter. Facebook provides you with a page where you can share updates with people who “like” your page, including event reminders, photos, news stories, and your blog posts. Visitors can leave comments or ask questions, and you should reply as much as is productive. Your Facebook experience is centered around your page, which you drive traffic to by inviting friends and supporters. While some organizations invest a great deal of time and money building a fan base on Facebook, you will likely use it in the beginning to interact with friends, supporters, and acquaintances.
On Twitter your experience is much more fast-paced, centered around a newsfeed of updates – “tweets” – from the people and organizations you follow. Tweets are limited to 140 characters, so they are good for sharing brief updates, pictures of events, and links to your blog posts or website. Twitter is also a good way for you or your staff to publicize events, as it allows you to broadcast information live for anyone to see and share. Much more so than Facebook, Twitter is an effective way of reaching new people, whether voters, media personalities, or other influential people.
On both platforms, the key is sharing. Share all your blog posts, news updates, and upcoming events. Whenever a colleague or someone you respect shares something of value to your audience, share that as well. They may even return the favor. While people find personal posts from public figures to be endearing, be careful. It is more than alright to wish your spouse a happy birthday or to share a family photo. On the other hand, if you find yourself questioning whether or not a post would be appropriate, you already have your answer.
In closing, build your online presence with positivity and optimism. Be honest and forthright when it comes to specific challenges that may lie ahead for your community, but keep it uplifting. People who have built strong presences online before you have done so by attracting people to themselves with positivity, gratitude, and mutual respect.
Remember also to bolster your image without making it all about you. By all means, drive traffic to your website, but make the content a mix of your own original work, updates from your community, and progress on issues you care about. Doing this will make voters feel good about their community and the work you do. When it comes time to vote, they won’t forget you or how you made them feel.
Christian Hanley is Chief Democratic Strategist and Speechwriter at Catamount Strategies, LLC, a full-service consultancy offering messaging and speechwriting services. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 802.579.3006. Follow Catamount Strategies on Twitter at @catamountstrat.