Forget ‘influencing’ for one second. Forget ‘being controversial’ for the sake of social media. Forget impressions and likes.
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Ask yourself why you are running?
If we are on the money, you want to represent the local people in your community. You may want to defend your seat or maybe you want to save the local rec center (how very "Fresh Prince" of you). Whatever the reason you are campaigning, you have an end goal, target, a mountain that needs climbing! Campaigning and taking action is commendable, exploiting all avenues at your disposal is just smart.
At Ecanvasser we want to help you achieve your goal. The best way we are seeing journeys being documented these days is Instagram. Youtube if you have a bigger budget maybe and solid editing skills but Instagram is where it’s at for now.
We follow tonnes of our users on Instagram, some of the candidates are captivating, you get a real sense of who they are, far beyond the power suit they are wearing in their profile pic usually. The chat and the confidence they exude comes across well on the platform. It’s also not a platform that favors any particular group over another, it’s easy to use and it’s a supportive network. The more you put in, the more you get out (cliche, I know).
So how can you use Instagram to your advantage come campaign time? Follow our action steps below.
Consider your goal
Raising your profile in order to improve your chances of success is usually the main aim for any candidate seeking election. Yes, Instagram is one of the newer platforms that political personalities use but sooner, rather than later, it will be a staple campaign functionality just like Facebook and having a website.
So always have a goal in mind, it will help you set up your profile and allow you to constantly revisit when it comes to messaging and interactions you have.
You can also share your goal or aim in the bio link.
Create your narrative
So now that you have a reason for creating an Instagram account, you need to figure out your narrative and what approach you are going to take.
This is how you showcase who you are to your followers. It’s really important that you be yourself online but it is also important that give you off a professional impression, especially if you want to be in office one day.
Instagram can help you be who you aspire to be before you have even been elected. Many political candidates constantly fight between being 'too wooden' and displaying too much character. Remember it's hard to be everything to everyone. So decide early on if you want to convey the 'official you' or the 'offline you'.
Official you: This account will usually be tied around campaign messaging, event shots and soundbites from speeches. It’s an excellent campaign tool and also gives you the opportunity to switch off.
The Offline you: This account is more like having your professional account and your personal account available. Politics these days is largely influenced by things that happen in politicians private lives. This is deemed interesting content for social media consumers and while we all follow accounts because we love seeing behind the scenes, it grows exhausting for the individual because there is no off button.
Plan your content
Daily posts, polls, video content or daily stories? You decide. The functionality is brilliant on the Instagram platform.
Political campaigns usually share promotional content, helpful posts and talk about connecting.
Promotional content: Campaigns have very specific timelines, usually bookended with important dates like voter registration days, promotional appearances, talks, schools visits and of course, polling day.
Candidates who are prepared always share these important dates on their various mediums, Instagram will be no different. Use a # to connect all your content, especially if the race you are in has a popular one, #Kate4Congress or #IowaElection2018.
Helpful content: Content that provides value is what your voters will love. Tell people about what makes you different, why you deserve votes and the policies that you plan on working on. People have a mental block that Instagram is all about the visuals and yes, this is true but more people are spending time on Instagram reading these days. It is now a major news resource so use the comment section and the story feature to share information that is critical to your campaign.
Connecting: Good news is that Instagram hashtags are still an effective way to get more Instagram followers or increase your engagement. Politics is all about networking and connecting and thankfully Instagram is the same. From following hashtags to adding them to your Instagram Stories, there are many new ways that you can use Instagram hashtags to help you grow your campaign this year, as well as helping you strategically to meet your campaign goals!
So this year, keep your hashtags relevant - search for a popular one and try and avoid making them up.
Try and change the hashtag up every couple of posts so you can open your profile up to different accounts who may be searching through various different hashtags, remember lots of people search on the Discover page via # hashtag.
If your campaign page is a business profile, you will be able to track post insights, this helps you see what content is working and helping you reach a larger audience.
Finally, you can now follow a hashtag just like you would follow an account. So you will be able to follow #Elections2018 or perhaps #USPolitics.
Engage with others
Speaking of networking above, Instagram has a great messaging function so just like Twitter, direct messaging is also encouraged. Go slide into someones DM's will ya.
Reaching out to potential voters, future volunteers and wider supporters is very easy. Remember that all the content that you are sharing will compound on Instagram so people will already have a certain impression of you when you reach out. If you have been doing a good job, it will reflect well on you and obviously if you haven’t, well then…
Know Your Limits
Finally, remember Instagram is only one branch of your campaign strategy. Politicians haven’t yet realized the full capabilities of the medium so make sure you still factor in your other social media channels.
The potential of the channel is huge because social media users are voters, they are not viewed the same way as they once were. We are seeing more activists than Kardashian fans online than we were 5 years ago. It’s an activation platform and if you invest time then you can use your profile to activate new voters and campaign volunteers.
We say 'know your limits' because it requires time. Virality is a rare commodity and may not happen with every post you share. Have patience and plan accordingly.
We hope these tips have helped in some way as you start your Instagram journey. Why not share your username or hashtag with us if you need to grow your follower base, we are always here to help!
If you are interested in returning to the safe haven of traditional campaigning with a modern twist, why not sign up for a free Ecanvasser trial now?