Building Twitter presence for a US state-level Political Candidate
July 22, 2017 11:44 AM   Subscribe

I'm helping out on a political campaign for a progressive (Dem) candidate to my state's legislature. Election is in November. I offered to help start a Twitter account but am drawing a blank on how to "launch" said Twitter account.

I seem to be the most "Twitter-familiar" person helping out with the campaign right now, which is why I volunteered for this role.

However, I am a far cry from a social media expert. I need some serious advice from folks experienced in social media management. Big, big bonus points for experience with political social media management.

At best I can say that I'm an avid, daily lurker (and occasional commenter or tweet-quoter) on Political Twitter, following a diverse array of accounts (journalists, activists, politicians, academics, subject matter experts, policy wonks and strategists). So I know what Political Twitter "looks like" at both the state and national political levels, but... yeah. I concede that doesn't give me any of the necessary knowledge to build a Twitter following, let alone launch the account.

And yes, if it seems like we're super discombobulated right now, we are. Candidate only recently got a campaign manager; and the coordinated campaign for the state Dem party only recently got into town. So with my admission of "this is a bit of a mess" and "we fully acknowledge and recognize that we don't have a lot of time between now and the election" now out in the open, PLEASE do not hesitate to tell me if I'm asking the wrong questions or approaching this from the wrong angle.

Things I'm trying to wrap my head around:

NETWORKING/FOLLOWERS: For the sake of getting the Twitter account launched: what should I propose to my candidate & their campaign manger about networking with other state-level politicians on Twitter? It seems like we're going to want some of the bigger names, like our current gubernatorial candidate*, to retweet us and help our following -- but I realize that probably, if not definitely, equivocates "endorsement" in the political world. So it seems like a sensitive subject, but maybe something our local coordinated campaign field rep for the state Dem party can help us on. Is this a yay or nay strategy for launching the account and quickly building a lot of followers?

MANAGEMENT/OVERSIGHT: How should the account be managed? I'll talk to the campaign manager, but the account is going to have to be tied to someone's email, and account access will need to be given to at least one if not more parties. We sort of have a group of social media people on the campaign, but none of them seem to be big Twitter users. I am thinking that, given this circumstance, the campaign manager's email should be tied to the account, but the candidate and at least a few campaign volunteers interested in Tweeting (myself and maybe a few other people) should have password access. Yes? How does this work? Embarrassingly clueless here.

STRATEGY/AVOIDING FOOT-IN-MOUTH TWEETS: Given that my candidate has admitted to not being especially Twitter savvy or even a current Twitter user, what is the protocol for getting their pre-approval on Tweets? Are there platforms we can use to quickly and easily communicate proposed tweets (like actual drafts of the Tweets) to the candidate? This is an account that is going to be updated mostly by other people on the campaign, as opposed to the candidate, so I need to get an idea for how to do this in an organized, tactical manner. It is of paramount importance to me that I find a way to do this and avoid unnecessary confusion and miscommunication within the campaign (not to mention miscommunication to the relevant voting public).

I'll be meeting with the aforementioned coordinated campaign's field rep, as well as candidate's campaign manager, later this week. I want to approach them with more ideas than questions. Otherwise I'm just creating more work for them, which is unacceptable. I'm here to help the campaign, not to drain its members' time and emotional resources.

In other words, I want to show up with an organized plan of action for building a Twitter account - on paper and in clear, straightforward language - and have the candidate, campaign manager (and possibly the coordinated campaign's field rep) be able to quickly go through it and "yay", "nay" or "here's my counter-suggestion" to each idea in said plan of action. If you also have suggestions for how to draft/write out/diagram a Twitter social media plan (is that a thing), let me know!

Any guidance or resources that you can provide are greatly appreciated. If for any reason you prefer to comment privately, please feel free to MeMail me your thoughts.

*Not trying to go into too many specific details here about the candidate/campaign itself, but the fact that we have a gubernatorial election this year should be a pretttttttttty good indicator of what state this might be in. Hint: it's the one a bit farther south. Just pointing that out incase knowing the state gives anyone more ideas about who to talk to or how to approach this.
posted by nightrecordings to Law & Government (5 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: One thing I would do is try to get verified. Twitter has a form you can fill out to request it. It will help more people see your candidate's tweets.

I would for sure follow politicians, other key voices in the party and news organizations, and use Twitter as a tool to share the candidate's vision on issues but also take political opponents to task for bad legislation. I think tweets criticizing Republicans over topics making the news will probably generate some attention if they are tweeted quoting the Republican's tweet. I think those tweets need to be crafted by your communications director or campaign manager. I think your role here is to say, "Shitty Republicans just tweeted about his Terrible Bill. This might be an opportunity for Our Candidate to chime in. What do you think?" Let them craft the tweet and send it to you to post. Depending on how your campaign works, the candidate may want to sign off. You shouldn't be writing these sorts of tweets yourself if you are not a member of the communications staff and in the inner circle, though I think you can make suggestions for approval. If a newspaper tweets a study that backs up your candidate's stance on a certain issue, you can simply retweet, or even better, you could have a tweet crafted with your candidate's own message, and then link to that report. I also think following individual reporters and quoting them or replying to them will help encourage them to a) follow you back and b) maybe even embed your candidate's tweets in their stories.

I would also use TweetDeck. It lets you schedule tweets (though, pay attention -- you, as a bad example, don't want to schedule a tweet saying it's a beautiful Friday afternoon, but on Friday morning there's a mass shooting or something and you let the tweet post later that day as scheduled). It lets you create lists too that you can set up in separate columns. (Make the lists private with the little lock symbol!) You can have a list for reporters so you can follow the news. You can have a list for Shitty Republicans you want to keep an eye on. You can have a list for fellow Dems you might like to retweet. You can follow hashtags, if your race will have a hashtag.

Lastly, you don't mention this, but depending on how small your campaign is, if you don't have a media monitor, you might also want to use Twitter to keep the pulse of the race. What are people saying? What news items seem to be resonating? What are prominent voices saying about the race? Etc. Media monitoring is kind of a full-time job in a race that is garnering a lot of attention, so you might not want to volunteer to do it, but it's something to keep in mind. A really small race probably won't be a heavy lift. You also will probably want to create a secret, private account for your media monitoring activities just so you don't accidentally end up liking or retweeting something you don't want to. You could manage all the watch lists in TweetDeck with the secret account, and then when you want to quote or retweet something from the official account, you can navigate there directly.
posted by AppleTurnover at 12:04 PM on July 22, 2017

Best answer: This is advice based on my experience running the Twitter account for a nonpartisan voter outreach campaign, so some details may not be applicable.
- we used a Google spreadsheets to draft tweets so that people could take a look at the suggestions before loading them onto Hootsuite (which we used in lieu of Tweetdeck, but I think it has similar functionality?)
- we followed local politicians, good governance groups like Common Cause, environmental activists, local news anchors and reporters' personal accounts, accounts linked to the state university (professors and grad students in political science), social service groups and started judiciously retweeting them
- basically with almost any topical tweet, I tried to identify at least one or two Twitter accounts that were relevant and cc them. Direct mentions were a great way to get on people's radar. I didn't bombard people, however, just wanted to position the account as a resource, so would @someone once or twice at most if they didn't start following the account
- figure out what are the popular local hashtags and participate in them. For example, #luckywelivehawaii and #GoBows (college sports!) were perennial faves
- we also did a mix of ~75% "serious" tweets and ~25% more light-hearted tweets. is the account going to be clearly the campaign's account rather than the candidate's? Then consider identifying it as such in the Twitter bio "run by volunteers for the X for State Senate" and tweet out photos of the campaign office, voter outreach efforts, and other people-centric activities
posted by spamandkimchi at 5:02 PM on July 22, 2017 [1 favorite]

Best answer: " is the account going to be clearly the campaign's account rather than the candidate's? Then consider identifying it as such in the Twitter bio "run by volunteers for the X for State Senate" and tweet out photos of the campaign office, voter outreach efforts, and other people-centric activities"

To this end, choose what person you'll be writing in and stick to it -- some accounts are third person ("Candidate Mary love the chicken dinner!") and others are first person ("I so enjoyed the chicken dinner tonight!"), and some are a mix of both: "Mary enjoying a chicken dinner fundraiser" and then later "OMG best chicken ever -M," with "signed" tweets signalling they're the candidate's own composition. Local races are usually first-person and the comms staff "hides" because it's too impersonal to have a staff writing; Congressional races everyone assumes there's a staff. At the state leg level I think either is okay. But decide if everything will be in the candidate's voice, or the campaign's, or a mix of the two -- and if you mix, how you'll designate the mix.

A very rookie error is to have the social media campaign be all in first person and then one of the comms people slips and writes in third person.

Also use IFTTT to hook up twitter to facebook etc.

Think of some memes you can participate in in positive, campaign-related ways -- like posting a throwback Thursday photo of the candidate in high school writing letters for Amnesty International or doing model UN or something. And, yeah, find local hashtags, both popular ones and political ones. (In Illinois, statehouse politics are tagged #twill for "twitter Illinois" which is not super-obvious if you don't already follow Illinois politics twitter!)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:17 PM on July 22, 2017 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I'm not a Twitter user, but I do plan a run for my state legislature. I think you should emphasize that which is local to the district, such as homeowner associations, schools, etc. I don't know how big your district is. But your candidate could get lost in the mix of state and city-level people and issues. He or she needs to become known to the people who can vote for him or her.
posted by maurreen at 7:30 PM on July 22, 2017

Response by poster: These were all incredibly helpful, thank you guys!
posted by nightrecordings at 10:39 AM on July 25, 2017

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