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December 6, 2010

Social media and elections in Calgary – lessons learned

Last night I participated in a panel discussion at Election Dissection by Third Tuesday Calgary. The event was put together by Doug Lacombe and Troy Wason and took place at Melrose Cafe and Bar. Over 80 people had a chance to listen to a panel of 3 (DJ Kelly, Stephen Carter and Alex Zagoumenov) and engage in a few great discussions. In this post I’d like to share a few points I made last night. I hope this post is also useful for those that didn’t have a chance to make it last night.

My campaign story

  • I was introduced into the campaign by Jo Williams of NotYourAverageJo.com. Jo had a friend “on the inside” who needed social media people.
  • Became part of communications team lead by Lois Lockwood of Scout Communications, the agency of record for Barb Higgins’ campaign.
  • Worked closely with Shannon Larkins of BlackCoffee Communications, the media relations person for Barb Higgins campaign for Mayor.
  • Responsible for building and managing the digital communications platform: social media monitoring, website maintenance, SEO, paid search, email campaigns, social profiles support and online community outreach.

What follows is a list of 7 lessons I learned going through this campaign. The idea here is NOT to blame or make excuses. I want to make sure that the lessons I learned in this campaign can be applied to any business.

7 social media elections lessons learned through the campaign

  1. Start early. Looking at this election starting 6 months in advance is not a bad idea. It’s important to understand that you can’t build a community of likeminded people at once. And without a community of committed users a product is nothing.
  2. Have a strong product. As many of the attendees tweeted last night, if a product is not complete, it doesn’t matter how much money you put into advertising this product. My point is that with time and the right team anybody can be developed into a great candidate / product.
  3. Have a strong message. Is your message worth sharing. I can tell you from experience that 7 platform points do not build a strong message that’s worth sharing. Also, ensure that once you have a strong message, you provide tools like AddToAny or ShareThis that simplify sharing.
  4. Plan, plan, plan. Some will say that with social media it’s impossible to plan because you don’t have control over it (control is with the audience). However, you should be able to know the product, audience and the message, the competition and the key players. Once these are clear, you should be able to anticipate a number of outcomes and plan to execute on.
  5. Know your audience. Speak their  language. Be where they are. According to Stephen Carter, Twitter was not the primary choice to start the campaign. Instead they started with CalgaryPuck and Beyond forums where Calgarians with strong opinions live.
  6. Work with your audience. It’s no longer us (selling) versus them (buying). Today, you should be in business of creating fans and empowering them to speak for your product on your behalf. You will probably start with a small group of customers (your family, circle of close friends, small group of customers). Work with these groups, educate them, provide with updates, make it easy for them to share with their networks.
  7. Grow from within. Grow by starting with audiences that are close to you, educate them on how to share. And if your message is resonating with them, they will spread it. Running multiple accounts and tricking the system does not work in the long run. Social media is not a broadcasting channel.

I’m proud that I had a chance to be on the team and met so many wonderful people both inside the campaign and outside. Barb was a strong candidate and would have had a huge chance of winning if we all started earlier. A stronger campaign won. And I’m eager to continue learning and sharing what I know about social media and elections with you!

My follow up presentation at a local online marketing Meetup


Last night I presented at Calgary SEO and Online Marketing Meetup hosted by Jimmy of Foundpages and Kath of Lunchbox Theatre. It was a cozy room full of good people looking to learn more about my Barb Higgins campaign story. For those of you who missed it here’s the deck I used to present:

The presentation itself went ok, but the questions that followed were amazing! Thanks to organizers and participants! Wishing all of you a very happy holiday season and plenty of success in 2011!

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