Social Media: It's Not Just About Gaining Followers

If you are a rap star or a Hollywood celebrity, maybe all you care about is your number of followers. But as a Member of Congress, your gaze should focus on more than just the number of people following you. Social Media gives Congressional offices a crucial way to get your message heard and engage your constituents. But you need to use it wisely. Take the opportunities to turn your Social Media into gold. When you take the time to get your readers invested in what you are saying, you’ll get back more than you anticipated. Here are a few tips to maximize your Social Media effectiveness:

Know Your Community.
Tweets, posts, and newsletters should be carefully crafted. Instead of making these vague or the same old reposts, take the time to make them relevant and timely. To do this, you need to know your audience and what they want. When you directly address their concerns, your constituents will see that you are paying attention to their needs.

Solicit Feedback.
Let your readers know they are valuable assets. Ask them their opinion about current issues, give them a poll or trivia question, and elicit their opinions on an upcoming event. This kind of feedback is crucial in order to build relationships and stay in touch with your constituents.

Focus on Customer Service.
When your constituents talk, listen. Turn their questions into connections. Find a way to respond to then quickly, use the Gateway survey feature to ask for their feedback on your website or through an eNewsletter.  Begging for engagement is a good thing and if a lot of people have questions about the same thing, take a long hard look at how you are explaining things; you might need to change your tactic. 

Four Keys to A Winning Twitter Strategy

Tweeting has become an increasingly common way to communicate with constituents. But that doesn’t meant the best thing to do is to tweet about every move a Member makes. There’s actually a method to the tweeting madness when it comes to your political message. When you follow a few guidelines, you’ll get better results. Here are a few hints about the most effective way for Members to tweet:

  1. Quality, not quantity. Resist the urge to tweet without a purpose. Just because you can tweet every minute, that doesn’t mean you should. Before you tweet, ask yourself: Am I championing a cause? Keeping in touch? Communicating a message? If you don’t know the answer, keep your tweet to yourself.
  2. Measure your results.  One measure of quality tweets is the amount of retweets an individual tweeter averages, according to OhMyGov! Find out how many retweets you get, and you have instant information about their popularity.
  3. Size matters. Just because you have lot of followers, this doesn’t ensure the success of your Twitter campaign. But it does matter because the more followers you have, the more likely your message will get retweeted.
  4. Don’t overdo it. Most of us suffer from information overload. Too many tweets and you run the risk of disseminating your message or having your followers simply tune out. The experts say one or two is about right.

Content: It's a Two-Way Street

What makes good content? It’s a question that’s been around as long as the printing press. But a lot has changed since Gutenberg’s history-altering invention.

Many offices assume that content is only about pushing out your message. But in the days of social media, content can’t just be all about shoving messages into people’s inbox or newsfeed. In its highest form, content — whether an article or a video — is a starting point to something else. And that something is a conversation.

These days content is a two-way street, and giving constituents an opportunity to express themselves is the key. For people who care about a topic, nothing is more important is than a forum for their ideas and perspective. When people have a forum and start a conversation, the result is an engaged citizen. And for your communications strategy, engagement is everything.

Before you send out your next eNewsletter or write your next post on Facebook, ask yourself: Am I providing useful information? Am I starting a conversation? If the answer is yes, you’re on the right track.

We want to know: How do you start a conversation with your constituents?

The Blackout Period: The Perfect Time to Reach New Constituents

The 90-day blackout period before a state primary or a general election prohibits Members from sending out unsolicited mass mailings to their constituents using public funds. Mass mailings are defined as a single message that is sent to more than 500 individuals; this rule applies to paper mailings and eNewsletters.

Given this restriction, how do you maintain strong communications with your constituents and continue e-mail list building activities to grow your supporter base? We recommend several strategies: 

  1. Inform your constituents of the approaching blackout period, what it means and how they can continue to receive updates. 
    Once Franking approves the message, send it to your "All Contacts" list two or three times, excluding your subscribers each time, before your blackout period starts. This allows you to collect as many new subscribers as possible from your "All Contacts" list. Below in italics is some sample text that you can use as a starting point to customize your own message.

    I want to stay in touch with you about the work that I am doing for the XXth District. However, by law I will be unable to e-mail you from (type start of Blackout Date Here) until the (Type date of your State's Primary Here) primary election unless you indicate that you want to receive updates from me. ??It’s an easy process. All you do is click the link below and I will be able to send you updates on legislation and issues important to you. Thank you for taking a moment to read this e-mail. I hope you will subscribe.??Click here (Link to your Profile page) to receive periodic e-mail updates.

  2. Capture e-mail addresses from offline constituents.
    Make sure you are using every opportunity to capture e-mail address from your constituents. For example, request email addresses when someone calls in, stops by a district office, attends a town hall or event, or returns a piece of direct mail. Remember, a strong list of opt-ins will be invaluable going into blackout season.
  3. Take advantage of multiple channels.
    Are you communicating with your constituents using as many channels as possible? Have you considered Facebook ads to reach out? We help Members successfully do this every day.
  4. Engage your constituents with surveys to get to know them better.
    Constituent Gateway eNewsletter allows you to send out short surveys to engage your audience with questions pertaining to relevant topics. Use their response to create criteria-based lists and better target your mailings to constituents who have expressed interest in the subject.
  5. Tap into social media and viral marketing.
    All of our eNewsletter accounts come equipped with “Share On…” content pieces that allow your constituents to quickly and easily share your e-newsletter on their Facebook or Twitter profiles. And our Social Dashboard lets you monitor the statistics about your social media.

Timeline for Facebook Pages: It's About Time

It’s no secret: Timeline for Facebook rocks. The profile creates the feeling that you’ve got something special that you want people to interact with. Carolyn Everson, Facebook’s VP of Global Marketing Solutions, says it best:

"The goal has always been to have your personal experience on Facebook not be so different than the brand or page experience. And right now, it is different. You have Timeline and you have a page-brand profile. So we are absolutely moving in the direction to sync those up. We believe that brands want to be able to curate how they’re represented in a more visually pleasing way, and we’re in the midst of trying to figure out how best to do that."??

Moving in this direction is a good thing. It also presents a huge design opportunity: think about the possibilities of the huge timeline photo on the top of your Facebook page. Your boss already loves their Facebook page where they interact with constituents, so think of what is possible with a brand new design.  Furthermore, think about the content opportunities — more rich content that makes your Facebook page more interactive, more helpful and more worthwhile for your constituents. 

We already know that the Facebook content ranking system loves photos, videos and other pieces of rich content, so why not reward that system by populating your page accordingly?

Have questions?  Let’s talk at Facebook@iConstituent.com to discuss what we can do for your Facebook page.

Gateway's Facebook Advertising Dashboard: No Statistic Left Behind

We’ve already told you about the Gateway’s Social Dashboard, a feature of our Social Module. But that’s not all the Social Module offers. It also includes our Facebook Advertising Dashboard, which monitors your iConstituent-managed Facebook advertising campaign. If you choose to have us manage your ads, you’ll have access to easy-to-read charts, graphs, and tables that allow you to instantly understand the details of your Facebook ad campaign — invaluable information that can inform your future ad strategy. Here are the features of the Advertising Dashboard:

  1. Page Insights. Get insight into your active ad; hover over any one of the categories below for a more detailed explanation.
  2. Advertising Trends. In a line graph, view your advertising trends over the last 90 days, which is as far back as Facebook tracks data. Hover over a plotted point for more details.            
  3. Currently Active Facebook Advertisements. This table shows the stats of active ads managed by iConstituent; hover over the question mark for more info. The graph shows how your ad is doing in the following categories:

Watch the videos here to understand the full spectrum of what this useful feature can do for you!

Should you encourage comments on your blog?

Should you encourage comments on your blog? It’s a question posed by many organizations, and everyone seems to have an opinion. Here are a few pros and cons, plus some insight from the experts on both sides.

Pros:

  1. You really get to know what people think.
  2. You can start a dialogue.
  3. You’ll get good ideas for future blog topics.

“A blog without comments is a soap-box, plain and simple,” says GigaOm’s Matthew Ingram. “Not having comments says you are only interested in passing on your wisdom, without testing it against any external source (at least not where others can watch you do so) or leaving open the opportunity to actually learn something from those who don’t have their own blogs, or aren’t on Twitter or Google+. That may make for a nicer experience for you the blogger, and it may make your blog load faster, but it is still a loss — for you, and for your readers.”

Cons:

  1. Blog comments can be unconstructive
  2. Some anonymous blogs are downright offensive.
  3. They can take time and energy to moderate.

“Let’s be totally honest here: anyone worthwhile leaving a comment should do so on their own blog,” says TechCrunch writer MG Siegler. “Very few read blog comments anyway. I’m sorry, but it’s true. Commenting is a facade. It makes you think you have a voice. You don’t. Get your own blog and write how you really feel on your own site.”

3 Tips to Integrating Social Media and Email Marketing

Just because Social Media is all the rage, this doesn’t mean you need to throw your email marketing campaign out the window. Instead, learn how to leverage the two for maximum results. Here are a few ways:

  1. Use Social Media as a focus group.
    Social Media allows you to know your constituents. Keep track of their Social Media use, and you’ll learn what they like, what they are sharing, and what they’re talking about. With this understanding, you can then adjust the content of your e-newsletter accordingly.
  2. Extend Your Campaign.
    When you send out your e-newsletter, make sure to extend your campaign by giving readers the option to share, like, or follow.
  3. Grow Your List. 
    Include an email sign-up form on your Faceook page or have your Twitter follower to the form via a web link.