Making a Social Media Splash

Can politicians learn anything from Mad Men? Communications Directors are always looking for ways to sell their Members. The days of simply writing a press release and e-mailing it to reporters has gone. It takes retail tactics to maintain relevancy in the media.

So we turn to the season four premier of Mad Men this past Sunday. Peggy and Pete device a scheme of having two women fight for a ham in a grocery store to generate exposure for their client. This stunt would certainly make Marketing Outrageously author Jon Spolestra proud. While the stunt landed one actress in jail and Peggy in hot water with her boss, it did work in generating sales for the client.

Now let’s transition to 2010 and today’s media environment. What can politicians do to make a splash? Obviously I am not advocating fighting in a supermarket, but healthy competition can be the solution.

Social media allows for interaction between Members of Congress and their constituents. While candidates search for volunteers to knock on doors and make phone calls as elections draw near, social media provides an avenue for continuous engagement throughout a Member’s term in office.

An effective social media strategy has Congressmen and Senators igniting their constituents’ passions.  For instance, why not challenge a colleague on who has more Facebook or twitter followers?  Maybe it can be a Republican versus a Democrat from a neighboring district or a border war between Senators from neighboring states.

We saw a small snippet of this recently when the Republican and Democratic parties engaged in a six-week battle on who could add the most followers on Facebook.  Regardless of who won, both sides realized significant increases in their social media following. This tactic could be even more effective on an individual basis, as polling consistently shows that constituents have a more favorably opinion of their individual representative than for the entire party.

Another example is the Republicans recently unleashed “You Cut campaign. Whether you agree with the premise of the initiative or not, one has to admire its ability to generate enthusiasm among core Republican supporters. Many Republican members marketed the program on their social media sites and the party collected hundreds of thousands of names to solicit for the upcoming 2010 election.

Don Draper may have not liked Peggy’s stunt to sell hams but the goal is to increase exposure for the client and she succeeded. Politicians have the tools at their disposal to make a splash using little, if any, money. And considering the 140 character limitations of the public’s attention span, they better start using those tools to make headlines.

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