How to How to Use Twitter As Part of a Successful Political Lobbying Campaign

twitter2Earlier this year, I was called in to run the social media aspect of a political lobbying campaign.

The campaign was a success, in no small part due to my use of Twitter:

* I “branded” the client’s tweets with a permanent link to their website

* I used a trustworthy Twitter application to help maintain our follows and unfollows

* I tied our campaign to an easy two-word keyword phrase we wanted to “own” for the next 30 days

First, let’s look at the basics:

The client — a mid-sized professional association — undertook a 30-day campaign, pressuring politicians to take their side on a particular issue.

During the month, the campaign got articles and op-eds on the subject placed in major media, pushed TV and radio shows to talk about it, and wrangle meetings with politicians who could help them achieve their 5-point program.

My job was to run the Twitter and Facebook accounts for the association’s campaign.

These accounts had to be organic, lively and (hopefully) popular, to provide that all important “social proof” that tells stakeholders and decision makers, “This is an issue people care about.”

(Note: they were not the client’s main, pre-existing Twitter and Facebook accounts. The ones I was managing were set up to focus on this public policy issue, as was the special website they created. None of these destinations was built to last, but they still had to look attractive and welcoming, and spur action on the part of visitors.)

The new Twitter account literally started with a couple of followers: the client and the lobbyist who’d hired me.

To acquire “social proof” it is vital to get that follower number as high as possible, as soon as possible.

BUT if you try to grow your followers too quickly, Twitter will ban you as a spammer. (Take my word for it: I’ve learned that the hard way!)

First, I used MarketMeTweet to “brand” the client’s tweets. For reasons of confidentiality, I’ll pretend for the purposes of this case study that the keyword phrase we wanted to “own” during that month was “artificial sweetener.”

So, using MarketMeTweet’s easy branding feature, I changed the “via” line in the clients Twitter updates to read “Artificial Sweetener” and to link back to their special lobbying campaign website.

(Note: while not exactly “long tail,” it’s a two word phrase rather than just one, so you can get specific without running out of room. That’s a better choice than just plain “sweetener” because you’re more likely to connect with your audience the more specific you can be.)

Now, every time I sent out a client tweet, it read “via Artificial Sweetener.” Not only do these keyworded links provide a boost of “Google juice”, they attract clicks, which means more traffic to the client’s website.

What other tricks did I use to increase the client’s visibility?

One of MarketMeTweet’s marketing tools is their “Reply Campaigns” function. Since our client’s keyword phrase was “artificial sweetener,” I set up a search for that keyword phrase, and wrote up a reply template tweet that said: “If you’re interested in artificial sweetener issues, check this out,” along with a link to the client’s specially designed campaign website.

They’d created a short but powerful public service announcement to promote their cause, and people like short videos, so I linked directly to the page with the embedded video.

(Important: That page also had calls to action like “Sign our petition,” “Follow us on Twitter” and “Join us on Facebook.”)

I hit the “Run Now” button and immediately got to see all recent tweets about “artificial sweetener.” When I spotted a tweet from someone who’d be likely to welcome our message, I hit the “Reply and Follow” option. This sent my template reply tweet to that person. I did that about five times in a row, then stopped.

Why? While it’s tempting (believe me!) to get carried away and start replying to and following all these people who are interested in your topic, it’s a mistake in Twitter’s eyes.

Twitter will shut down your account, without warning, if they suspect you of spamming or being a robot.

Do something else for a half hour or an hour. (In my case, I tweaked the client’s Facebook page, and collected news stories about artificial sweetener from my Google Alerts.) Then start the “Reply and Follow” routine again.

You’ll find that lots of these people will follow you because you followed them. You also might discover, as I did, that there are lots of professional organizations and non-profits on Twitter that also care about artificial sweeteners. Follow them, then go straight to their Twitter account and check out their followers. Use your discretion, but essentially, their followers might be interested in what you have to say on the subject too.

However: I don’t recommend following too many people at once. (See what I said about Twitter and spambots, above.) I set up TweetAdder to follow only about a dozen names at a time, and set the maximum per day to 50.

That’s not a lot, and it’s frustrating, especially if you are working on a time-sensitive project like I was. But the days are gone when you could just follow thousands of people a day on Twitter.

Throughout the day, I sent out general updates with links to breaking news about artificial sweetener, occasionally including a relevant synonymous hashtag, like “#saccharine” to increase the chances we’d be found in a search.

The key was sending out on-topic, helpful tweets: “If you care about x, see y;” “News story about artificial sweetener;” etc.

Since every update included a built-in branded link to the client’s campaign site, I didn’t have to squeeze their url into every single message.

And every tweet was well under the 140 character limit. Because when others retweet your update, their personal “@” information gets added on to it, too. So leave plenty of room in your message so their added info won’t cut off your message. Try not to send out any tweet longer than 120 characters if you’re hoping people with retweet it.

Making the messages relevant to other people’s interests,rather than a non-stop stream of blegs to “sign our petition” was a good decision (if I do say so myself.)

By doing this routine, by the end of the week I’d managed to get a healthy looking number of followers. Some, like politicians and the heads of relevant non-profits, were people I’d DM’d with a link to our video. Others were acquired through TweetAdder.

Between that and people RT’ing our updates, we experienced slow but safe growth and exposure.

At the end of the month, word came that the association had landed meetings with decision makers and ultimately, were promised most of what they’d campaigned to achieve.

The clients were particularly impressed by the presence I’d been able to establish for them on Twitter. The sense that people online were talking about their issue really did make a difference in the way they were received by politicians.

Using tools like MarketMeTweet and TweetAdder were the key for me. There is simply no way we could have accomplished what we did without those labor saving applications.

SUMMARY:

* Brand your “via” line so that each update contains a link to your site and your keywords

* Search out people on Twitter who are interested in your cause, and send them helpful, informative messages that aren’t all about you

* Use synonymous hashtags to help spread your message

* Don’t go overboard by trying to follow hundreds of people at once

* Send personalized DMs to influencers

* Every message should be clear, polite, helpful, topical and re-tweetable (Keep it well under 140 characters.)

* Send your followers to pages with clear calls to action that help your cause: sign this petition, contact your local representative, etc.

* Be patient. Twitter hates spammers and bots. Grow your following steadily.

Twitter is a great tool for all kinds of social media campaigns — as long as it is used with care.

Kathy Shaidle’s combined Twitter accounts have close to 10,000 followers. Click HERE to get FREE info about Twitter apps, clients, news, tricks, videos, case studies and more at her blog TwitterPowerTool.

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