Identifying Voters and Moving Them Through Your Social Media Funnel

by politicalthing

This blog was originally authored by me and published on the Radian6 website on June 8, 2012. I’m posting it here for posterity.

Political parties win and lose based on their voter ID lists. These lists are normally compiled by mixing official membership lists, intel gathered by field operatives, and door-to-door canvassing.

Social media has provided political parties with a very powerful tool for identifying supporters and moving them from random re-tweeters on social media to registered party members or voters.

Social is More than Communications

Communications is the obvious fit for social media in the political operative’s toolbox. It provides an opportunity to speak directly to the electorate without having their message go through the media filter. It’s an especially useful tool for rallying a political party’s base, but it can also deliver a message to non-partisans through re-tweets and shared posts.

Social media monitoring platforms allow political parties to track how far their message has traveled across the social web. The Radian6 engagement console shows each individual that has retweeted or shared content, allowing political operatives to cross-reference the users’ social profiles with their existing voter ID lists. This task is made easier if those voter ID lists are contained within a CRM system.

Connect the Pieces

There are many critics who argue that retweets and Facebook shares do not convert to votes received on election-day. They argue that it is one thing to simply click the mouse to share information on social media and quite another to stand in line at a polling station to cast a ballot.

That is quite true. Yet I would argue that an important piece of the puzzle is missing: for the social voter ID funnel to work, it cannot be seen as an end in and of itself. The social funnel has to be seen as a gateway to the traditional voter ID and outreach systems political parties already have in place.

Making the Connection

To accomplish this task, political parties need to devote staff whose sole purpose is to create relationships with people who have responded to their content by sharing or commenting on it. This is the process of community building that has been proven successful time and again in the private sector.

Any political operative will tell you that when canvassing a neighborhood for support, a lot of the work of identifying whether or not someone is a likely supporter is done during a quick huddle at the end of each driveway. What was the tone of the conversation? Was the resident engaged, and if so, what kinds of issues were important to them?

Social media outreach provides a greater amount of certitude while centralizing the social media task at party headquarters. As likely supporters are engaged by a political community team, it will be possible to identify issues that spark engagement and record that information using post tags in the engagement console.

Perhaps a social media user engages frequently around poverty issues. That information can be recorded on their profiles and used later by the traditional party apparatus for a membership drive targeting people who relate to this specific issue. The goal at this stage is to move that person from being an unregistered community member to a registered member of the party.

Complete the Transition

Once that individual conversion has been made, the interaction on social and through other channels doesn’t stop. An important transition has occurred by cultivating that relationship from unknown and unregistered voter to party member. Now he or she can be reached by the traditional party machine via newsletters, phone banks and local neighborhood canvassers. When it is time to get out the vote (GOTV), these social media advocates will likely be more motivated to go to the polls. Political parties can also reach them directly to ensure they have voted, and if not, encourage them to do so.

While the social media world has reduced the hectic 24-hour news cycle to a dizzying 140-character cycle for political communications, it hasn’t done the same for voter ID, member registration, and GOTV. These still require relationship management and time to cultivate connections. Social media monitoring platforms facilitate a wider reach allowing political parties to find supporters where they live online. The social voter ID funnel can not replace traditional, on the ground voter ID practices, but it will help grow voter ID lists.