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How political campaigns use Facebook

July 22, 2014
U.S. Senator Thad Cochran (R-MS)

U.S. Senator Thad Cochran (R-MS)

It’s no secret that Facebook can help win elections and public affairs campaigns, but a lot of commentary on the subject is heavy on hype and light on specific examples.

That’s what makes this National Journal article such a useful read. Reporter Jerry Hagstrom outlines how supporters of U.S. Senator Thad Cochran used Facebook to help their candidate win a June primary that many prognosticators were convinced he would lose.

Here are two lessons communications pros can take from the article:

First, you need a coalition. The article isn’t about how the Cochran campaign used Facebook. It’s about how they deployed supporters to use Facebook, farmers in particular. It’s a huge difference. Decades of research shows that consumers are far more likely to trust friends and family than they are advertisers or politicians.  By galvanizing the local farming community – as well as its national trade association – to connect on Facebook, the Cochran campaign ensured that farmers were persuading farmers instead of candidates and campaign staff.

Second, it’s still about the message. Communicating anywhere – Facebook, a town hall, a company press release – without a predetermined message is wasted opportunity.  The Cochran campaign wisely matched message to audience by focusing farmers on the federal farm bill, ag subsidies, and the evasive comments made by Cochran’s opponent on agriculture policy.  The lesson: don’t ruminate. Take the time to understand what motivates your audience and match your message accordingly.

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