Thursday, November 10, 2011

Loudoun BOS Election Candidate Outreach – Social Media Fail for Younger Voters

We took a brief look among the winners of the recent BOS election in Loudoun County, to look at their outreach activities to prospective voters through 2 popular social media channels – Facebook and Twitter. Some did have limited LinkedIn activity, but we’re focusing on Facebook and Twitter (and Google Plus was just too new) mainly to drive home the point that these candidates effectively neglected huge swaths of potential younger voters – the voters who are more likely to use Facebook and/or Twitter to find local news and possibly interact online.

All campaigns, with the slight exception of Mr. Buona, demonstrated an appalling lack of integrated, personalized and active social media outreach, across the Internet channels available (including the candidates' websites). Especially given the "proof in the pudding" demonstrated by this past presidential campaign - of the value of integrated social media in promoting and amplifying campaign messages, reaching new constituents, and targeting the younger more mobile demographics.

How can we expect to reach, mobilize and engage the younger, rapidly growing and graduating citizens of Loudoun without actively reaching out on their terms, in their medium?

Not one candidate used Twitter effectively at all; across all candidates, a grand total of 30 people (possible voters!) were followed – Mr. Reid's tweets were actually protected from view altogether; Mr. Williams had 0 tweets, and Mr. Letourneau's last tweet was May 20th.

Facebook usage was a little more busy, with several candidates boasting a couple of hundred "likes" on their page, or friends on their profile (seems to be general confusion on profiles vs. pages). Mr. York's personal profile was turned on around 10/19 with only 14 posts (though 740 "friends" already!); Mr. Delgaudio's website doesn't link to his Facebook, and Ms. Clark has a broken link on her profile to a nonexistent "votejanetclarke" page (though her "Friends of Janet Clarke" page was nice, if impersonal).

The only candidate website to boast a full complement of very common online "share" buttons (i.e. YouTube, Twitter, Flickr, LinkedIn, Facebook) was Mr. Williams, though all the buttons except Facebook were actually broken.

While these metrics are obviously now OBE (overtaken by events), perhaps the new Board of Supervisors can promote a fresh initiative for 2012: "Whereas, we neglected to properly leverage social media to reach our younger constituents during the campaigns, we'll invest a lot more in County resources and attention to engage, motivate, support and educate both ourselves and this demographic (future voters and taxpayers!) through smart, integrated and current social media and mobile channels".

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