As we head into the 2010 elections, a lot of candidates, especially Republicans, are attempting to build on Obama’s successes from 2008. And there were some important lessons to be learned: Obama’s campaign forced many of us to rethink how successful political campaigns can be run. In particular, Obama’s use of social networking and video-sharing websites provided a template for future campaigns.
Some candidates have used these social networking ideas successfully, although perhaps none with so much acclaim as Sarah Palin. Slate claims she is “the most successful adopter on Facebook,” but also points out that many Republican heavy-weights, including Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney, are moving to take advantage of these new opportunities to communicate with voters. Meanwhile, Time magazine praises a new Palin advertisement, which she posted both on her Facebook page and on her YouTube channel, as marking her as a real player in both the 2010 elections and the 2012 presidential campaign. And her advertisement does appear to be effective: it has a clear target audience (American moms) and a clear appeal (anti-DC policies).
But that doesn’t mean that all candidates have been equally successful in harnessing the power of social networking. My current favorite isn’t a big-name politician, so maybe it isn’t fair to compare their efforts to Palin’s, who surely benefits from many consultants advising her in her campaign. However, no one should produce an advertisement this bad and still expect it to benefit their campaign. Perhaps the candidate believed that emulating “Glee” would endear them to younger voters, but this candidate needed to think much more carefully about who he is targeting and what message he is trying to convey.
Ultimately, what makes a good social media campaign is the same thing that makes any good campaign: a clear target and a clear message.