A Few Notes from #WGRPPG14
The good people at Women in Government Relations were kind enough to let me crash their “PAC’s, Politics & Grassroots” Conference for a bit today. I attended the “Sparking Grassroots through Social Media” panel, which included Beth Becker of Indigo Strategies, Christian Curto of Campaign Solutions, Erin Flior of Adfero Group, and Stefanie Reeves of the American Psychological Association.
Hopefully, I can write up the conference a bit more soon, but I wanted so share some tidbits from today. (Full disclosure, CQ Roll Call was a sponsor of the event.)
- Even though Facebook is 10 years old and Twitter is closing in on a decade, panelists thought association executives still didn’t grasp the usefulness or basic function of social media. Reeves and Erin Flior expressed frustration that some association executives still see social media either as “a fad” or as something completely separate from public relations work. Becker lamented many executives’ continued obsession with “vanity” metrics like numbers of Facebook likes or Twitter followers, numbers that are easily inflated in a number of ways.
- In his presentation on the unique power of Facebook in running grassroots pressure campaigns, Curto noted that people who were willing to take online polls were remarkably willing to self-report useful demographic and personal data. During one issue-based campaign, his firm gathered more than 12,500 data points and 2,500 through polls that respondents took by signing into their Facebook accounts first.
- Reeves said her organization relies heavily on in-house blogs to fill content on its social media feeds because its members are uniquely passionate about reading. Blogs were doubly useful because her office found APA members were more likely to read a blog or a call to action page than an email.
- Other panelists noted the power of the shared image to tell a story: Curto highlighted two images his firm created in an hour that were shared on Facebook more than 173,000 times each.
- Becker said she thinks of social media as “social shopping,” in that people now have thousands of potential sources of information online. The key for grassroots groups (and certainly the media, too) was to give people not only the content they were looking for, but content that they would not be ashamed of having other people see that they’re consuming. People, in other words need to want to be seen engaging with content.
- In terms of tone, Curto’s firm preferred to start with positive messaging on Facebook first, then gradually shift toward more negative, disturbing, or sarcastic messages — particularly ones that used images.
- All the panelists agreed in a question-and-answer session that members of Congress often handle their Twitter accounts themselves, while Facebook and other platforms fall to staffers. Tweeting during a debate definitely gets members’ attention, therefore. But organizing a massive coordinated tweet of the same thing at once, Becker said, didn’t work. Instead, spread individualized tweets at members from supporters out over several hours. And, Flior noted, thank members for their support once it’s given.
- All panelists emphasized that successful use of social media had to be conceived as and measured by the interactions users have with the information presented. The goal is never eyeballs on pixels, but the actions of sharing, commenting, or acting upon information presented. That kind of interaction has to be reinforced by campaign organizers, whether through thanking people directly, offering them some campaign swag, or replying to conversations taking place within campaign forums.