PR 2.0 Lessons from the Republican’s Twitter Play Book

Yesterday, I tweaked the Republicans for the way they market their candidates.

Today I give back with a post that offers some grudging respect for how they have been using Twitter in this campaign season, which l learned about in the NY Times article For Campaigns, Twitter is Both an Early-warning System and Weapon.

The article shares ways in which the campaigns have used Twitter to stay on top of trending topics and rapidly respond to developing stories… as well help create the stories.  The article says:

If the 2008 presidential race embraced a 24/7 news cycle, four years later politicos are finding themselves in the middle of an election most starkly defined by Twitter…With 100 million active users, more than 10 times as many as in the 2008 election, Twitter has emerged as a critical tool for political campaigns, allowing them to reach voters, gather data and respond to charges immediately.

Some of the tactics mentioned can be used to support other types of communications efforts, with the caveat that there are few things that rival a presidential campaign when it comes to the volume of media interest, coverage and Twitter chatter.

I have distilled information from the article and present it below as list of tips (excerpts are in italics). 

Keep fingers on the pulses of media sentiment, interest and bias

Mr. Romney’s operation… believes that it can ferret out bias among reporters by analyzing their posts.. Their war room compiles all the Twitter messages from the press corps at every event and e-mails them to the campaign staff.

Mr. Romney’s aides say they can get a sense of where a story is headed before it is published simply by reading reporters’ Twitter messages

Correct the record

The campaign will push back on posts that it thinks are incorrect or unfair, and nearly every reporter who covers Mr. Romney has received a Twitter-inspired lecture

Engage directly with and influence consumers/voters

With Twitter, rapid response has an even bigger role, with campaigns needing creative ways…to push their message, hoping to attract the attention of reporters and supporters.

Mr. Gingrich’s political team… used Twitter to reach out to voters who had posted positively about guns, a group he felt would be receptive to Mr. Gingrich.

Use sponsored tweets to amplify the message and align with hot topics

Campaigns can pay for “promoted” messages and accounts so that when users search Twitter for certain words or phrases, the campaign’s account or a particular post is the first result.

Rally supporters

Twitter has transformed debates, aides to various campaigns say. Mr. Hemingway said he provided Gingrich supporters he considers “influencers” with debate-night instructions, from hashtags to the best times to post.

Use as a focus group

The campaigns can also monitor segments of the electorate to see what arguments are resonating. During a few of Mr. Obama’s recent speeches, his campaign posted some of the lines on Twitter and watched which were most shared…For a top Romney strategist, Twitter is the lens through which he consumes debates. “You can just follow the reactions,” he said. “It’s basically a focus group.”

Respond to competitors

When Newt Gingrich said in a recent debate that he was a man of “grandiose” ideas, Mitt Romney’s campaign pounced. It sent mocking Twitter messages with a hashtag, “#grandiosenewt”, encouraging voters to add their own examples of occasions when they felt Mr. Gingrich had been “grandiose.”


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