Politics Not PR for Social Media


An interesting thing happened on the way to the Presidential campaign in 2012. For the first time, a presidential candidate announced their candidacy on Twitter.

Here’s the problem that I see with Newt Gingrich announcing his candidacy this way. It wasn’t very authentic. It was a PR stunt, and almost everyone who is socially savvy can see through it.

Despite your political views, it’s an important lesson to learn. I understand Mr. Gingrich wanting to latch on to the coolest, hippest medium of the day to announce his big run. Heck, President Obama dominated social media platforms when he won the office, so it’s no surprise that his opponents would want to out-social-media him.

Here’s the difference. Mr. Gingrich clearly doesn’t understand how social media works. His announcement was a very blah ~ “Today I am announcing my candidacy for President of the United States. You can watch my announcement here (short url)”

Bor-ring! First, why provide a link to a video? And if you’ve watched the video, it, too is a snore-fest. As Jon Stewart joked, it looks like it was filmed in a Sears portrait studio, and does nothing more than echo the announcement for office. There’s certainly nothing there that would make the socially savvy generation to run out and start volunteering for the next big social media presidential candidate – it barely even gets them out of their recliners to get up and get potato chips.

And it’s not about being a Republican or a Democrat. Sarah Palin (a Republican, in case you’ve been under a rock), understands the power of the medium. Her Tweets often drive news cycles. Gingrich’s Tweets drive sleep cycles.

Let’s look at a different announcement on Twitter this week, which had much more “viral buzz” around it. Ashton Kutcher announced he was going to be joining the cast of “Two and a Half Men.” How’d he do it? “”What’s the square root of 6.25?” His Twitter followers immediately went to work to guess that he’d be on the show – and his Twitter followers may even keep the show alive while he’s on it. That’s the power of social media.

So what can we learn from this? Businesses, let me say, once again, that Twitter isn’t about your boring PR messages. Mr. Gingrich should take note. He could’ve said something like “1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is my dream address, vote for me in 2012” – ANYTHING other than the rote “Blah blah blah, President, blah blah blah.” Post things that are engaging to your followers, things that make them WANT to know what you’re saying. You want to elicit an “oooooh!” not an “eh.”

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