Reaching out online

With more and more people looking to social media to stay in the know about community news and events, platforms like Facebook and Twitter are important places to reach your audience (and find new supporters!). Here, you'll find an overview of effective online strategies to get your campaign in the public view.
Just getting started on social media? Different platforms have different conventions that can be tough to figure out when you're getting started, but these Facebook and Twitter basics can help.

Home base: Your campaign website

As soon as you start talking publicly about the campaign and creating new resources for the field, you are going to need a website to host information. The website also serves as a means of gathering additional contacts for your database. Your website should be live as soon as you are organized and should provide background information about the campaign, a place for visitors to show their support and sign up to receive more information, and links to your social media pages.

Strategies by platform

Social media is a good place to interact with policymakers—surveys of Capitol Hill staffers have found that even a handful of social media comments can draw attention. To reach out to your senator or member of Congress on Twitter, find their handle in our searchable database.

Because social media is an ever-evolving medium, the rules governing social media's use in politics are not always clear. Be careful with your online communications to avoid electioneering. As an organization, it is not recommended to like, friend, or follow candidates on social media, as this could be perceived as an endorsement. However, your organization can follow the official government accounts of sitting elected officials.
Facebook

A Facebook page is an essential tool for growing publicity for your campaign, building awareness of your issue, and conducting outreach with current and potential supporters. Set up a page so that people can "like" your campaign or organization. Include information about your campaign and a link to your official site in case people want more information.

Update your status a few times a week with recent developments or compelling information; the more people who like and share your status, the more publicity that status your campaign will get. Note that in general, photo and video updates tend to reach more people than text-only posts or links.

Facebook is particularly useful for coordinating events. You can create a page specifically for your event and use it as an electronic invitation, complete with details like a map to the event location, as well as the ability to easily update guests with last-minute changes. Share the event with your Facebook fans and encourage them to invite their friends.

Twitter

Twitter is another useful social network to employ when running a campaign. Tweet short blurbs as often as you want, updating your followers about any progress you make, meetings you attend, links to articles to which you want to draw attention—so long as it's not perceived as an endorsement.

Be sure to follow other organizations, public figures, and people that affect your campaign. Check to see if the candidates have Twitter profiles; if they do, monitor their accounts for afterschool-related posts and other general updates, without choosing to follow them.

Other platforms

While we recommend focusing your social media efforts on Facebook and Twitter, its also worth investigating Instagram, LinkedIn, and other platforms if you have the capacity. Instagram is useful for reaching a younger audience with compelling visuals, while Periscope allows you to share events in real time by live-streaming to audiences near and far using your smartphone.

Get your messages on the radar

Increased attention on social media in election season presents an opportunity to get your messages out to the widest audience possible.

  • Step up your general participation in social media; regular updates will help your follower base grow, and the more eyes on your updates, the farther your information can spread.
  • Keep up with political news and tie your posts into issues that are gaining attention in the media or on the campaign trail.
  • Write blog posts, stories on Medium, and op-eds on your issue.
  • Share graphics and facts about your issue on social media.
  • Share results of any candidate questionnaires—without judgment! When the field is narrowed to two candidates, make individual graphics for each questio to show how both candidates responded—thus representing the entire questionnaire (and both candidates equally and in an unbiased way). With any candidate questionnaire, your organization should also publish the complete, unedited response of each candidate.
Capitalize on multi-candidate events

While using social media during single candidate events can either look like endorsing—or opposing—a specific candidate, multi-candidate events can be a great opportunity to get visibility for your issue.

  • Organize to get your question asked and then share the responses on social media. If your issue is not discussed, point that out and highlight how many people think this issue is important by using the event hashtag(s).
  • Cover the events online by live-tweeting, sharing photos and images with text-overlay, or sharing simple charts that show the data behind the problem you are trying to solve.
  • Organize attendance of the live event or watch parties—wear matching shirts or something identifying, check-in on social media at the event, post photos from the event, and provide individual supporters with suggestions for what content to share on social media (and what isn't appropriate.)
Using social media for research

During election season, social media is a great tool for research. You can use it to answer these basic questions:

  • Who are the candidates?
  • Are they active on social media? Where? What are their handles?
  • Who are their advisors? What are their handles? (Campaign advisors often move on to become the staff of elected officials.)
  • What are the candidates’ platforms?
  • What hashtags do they—or their supporters—use to promote the candidate?
  • What are the key dates during the election season? For example: debates, policy speeches or announcements, town halls, or other speaking events.

Understand the candidates’ core issues and challenges by setting up private lists on Twitter (this allows you to follow what the candidate says, without actually following them), using social media listening tools like Tweetdeck to follow multiple conversations at once, and setting up Google news alerts for your issue and the candidates. Use this information to inform any in-person conversations you have with candidates and plan your calendar and approach for larger multi-candidate events.