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Political Campaigns and Social Media — Tweeting Their Way Into Office

by Jared Newnam
October 5, 2012

Creating a social media strategy for use during political campaigns has become an essential part of every candidate’s plan to get into office. With social media sites often getting more traffic than an official campaign website, it’s important for candidates to get connected.

“The use of social media in today’s campaign is not only important — it is critical,” says Hubert “Sonny” Massey, a Business instructor and advisor at South University, Savannah. “Millions of people are involved in using social networks daily. It is the opportunity to be in touch with large numbers of voters quickly, constantly and at a low cost.”

Massey says it has become a common practice for political campaigns to create social media sites or pages as part of their marketing strategy.

“From now on, social media will have a huge impact on elections,” Massey says. “With the speed of communications and the numbers of people involved, the impact has to be significant.”

Chris Saad, chief strategy officer at Echo, says the use of social media was pivotal during the 2008 presidential election, when U.S. President Barack Obama became the first candidate to use it successfully.

“It was the first campaign where social media was pervasive and he understood it and leveraged it,” Saad says. 

He compared the use of social media in the 2008 presidential election to the first televised campaign debate in 1960, between then-presidential candidates John Kennedy and Richard Nixon.

“The candidate who learned how to put on makeup and smile is the one who won the debate, and the other won on radio, (because) he understood the language of TV,” Saad says.

Saad says social media is a campaign tool — just as advertisements — and is a critical part of the campaign toolkit.

As part of their social media strategy, Saad says politicians create interesting posts to try to engage followers, similar to the tactics used by a brand or media company.

Candidates create simple to digest posts that can be easily retweeted or shared, Saad says. This type of campaign marketing is much different than creating television commercials, as the politicians can create social media posts quickly and easily to react to news and reach out to voters, whereas making an advertisement is a much longer process.

“They are using social media and engagement numbers almost as proxy battles for the actual elections.” 

Saad says the main social media goals in the presidential campaign are to create content that people share, for fundraising purposes, and to gauge where the candidates stand in the race.

The use of social media in today’s campaigns is not only important — it is critical.

Political Campaigns Connect With Voters

Most of what happens on social media from brands and political campaigns are not conversations, as they aren’t creating a back-and-forth dialog with voters, but simply hoping the messaging will get voter to vote a certain way.

Saad says candidates don’t typically reply to voter’s tweets and Facebook posts, but they do use social media companies like Facebook and Twitter to host live Q&As from the company headquarters, as a sort of town hall debate.

“They’re using the brand of a Facebook or Twitter to appeal to a young generation,” he says.

Though candidates may not reply to voter comments on their social media sites, Massey says it can be helpful for them to have the opportunity to see responses and opinions to topics they post.

Campaign Social Media Strategy

Massey and Saad agree that having the ability to see the political views of family, friends, and peers can sway a person’s vote.

“I think that’s the only way that social media works,” Saad says.

Saad says politically active people are subscribing to the candidates on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, and although less politically savvy people aren’t doing that, they’re still seeing those messages when their politically active friends comment and “like” them.

He says the only way the people without much interest in politics find out about a candidate’s posts is through the politically savvy people.

“A candidate may have a million subscribers, but will reach 10 million or 100 million people because of its viral effect,” Saad says. “Everybody is seeing a ton of campaign content coming through, whether they like it or not.”

With so much emphasis placed on social media sites, it can be easy to forget that candidates typically have an official campaign website as well.

Saad says it ebbs and flows as to whether voters visit the official campaign website of a candidate or their social media site more.

“With AOL and MySpace, there was this pull towards party websites, so people would push everyone to those sites, that peaked, then people realized their own websites were more important than other people’s,” Saad says. “We’re in this interesting swing right now where people are promoting Facebook and Twitter more than their own websites, but we actually think this is a temporary glitch. Their own website needs to be the place they’re promoting.” 

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Businesses’ Social Media Strategies Keep Consumers Connected

by Jared Newnam
February 4, 2011

Social media sites are no longer just a place to catch up with friends, unless some people regard their favorite restaurants and stores as friends.

Many businesses are creating social media strategies as ways to form a new kind of connection with consumers.

Monique Yeager, director of public relations at Sonny’s Real Pit Bar-B-Q  says the company uses a number of different social media sites as a way to connect with customers.

“Our main priority is to build relationships with consumers,” Yeager says. “Traditional media doesn’t build relationships with consumers. People trust other people more than advertising and what they hear on television. That’s the way of the world now.”

Yeager and Emre Ruhi, owner of custom T-shirt online retailer Teesey Tees, agree that businesses not using social media are at a disadvantage. “Social media is at a point where it is no longer an option. If you want to succeed and come across as an engaged and active business, you need to be participating in some form of social media,” Ruhi says.

Dan Novak, an assistant professor of Leadership at South University Online, says Facebook is successful because people are able to log in to one place and get updates on many different things and people.

Creating a Buzz with Social Media Sites

For some businesses, such as trendy restaurants and new stores, social media use is all about creating a buzz. They go down all avenues to try to get new customers in the door, because often businesses will only be popular for a short time before they fade into the background.

If you want to succeed and come across as an engaged and active business, you need to be participating in some form of social media.

Novak says social media adds long-term value to businesses that already have a loyal following, and who are focusing their marketing efforts on their target market.

Having a social media strategy is important for a company like Teesey Tees because their current and future customer base is tech-savvy and spends a lot of time on social networking sites.

“If we're not there, they won't know about us and our attempts at establishing a successful brand will simply fail,” Ruhi says.

Customers often comment on Sonny’s Facebook page. When the company made a switch from serving sliced beef to a new sliced brisket, customers went to Sonny’s Facebook page to express their disapproval.

Yeager says customers are also quick to defend the restaurant chain when people write negative comments on the company’s Facebook wall, adding that they don’t censor social media posts by customers unless they are profane or offensive.

Boost Business with Social Media

Both Yeager and Ruhi say their social media strategies have indirectly brought more business to their companies.

“I think it definitely brought us repeat business,” Yeager says.

Ruhi says Teesey Tee’s uses social media to demonstrate the kind of company they are to customers, instead of just promoting their own products.

“Teesey tries to reflect its sense of humor and energy in its social media presence, and in this way become a brand that people want to buy from,” Ruhi says. “If you're a fan of a company that posts things relevant to the field it's in, while remaining interesting, you'll like the company itself. You'll remember it in the future when you want a T-shirt, or maybe recommend it to a buddy who tells you they're looking for a cool shirt.”

Novak adds that businesses should remember they do not own their reputation. Therefore they need to use social media to build a reputation that is strong enough to overcome any attacks or business hardships.

Making a Social Media Strategy Personal

Novak says there is going to be a trend in the future towards businesses using personalization to market to consumers. He says customers are overloaded with information, much of which does not add value to them.

“Businesses have to target what the people want,” Novak says. “Businesses need to figure out what types of social media their clients use, not just a strategy for each medium.”

He says personalization will allow businesses to focus more on the information they’re giving consumers and less on how to provide the information through every social media channel.

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