Myth #6: Social Media has a minor role to play in a campaign.

From the new book by Sam Carpenter, a chapter from Making Oregon Great Again: Guide to the Grassroots Revitalization of the Oregon Republican Party (and the Defeat of the Ruling Class).

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Myth #6: Social Media has a minor role to play in a campaign.

That’s what you hear from political consultants. I had nine opponents in the primary election, none of whom knew anything about the proper application of social media. Our campaign gained 74,000 Facebook followers in six months, giving us a total of over 93,000 by primary election day last May 15th. The “reach” to Republican voters was incredible, and to get to this point over the four and one-half month campaign, I personally authored posts and answered comments four to six hours every day. These were direct, one-on-one contacts with voters. The end-result? We attribute two-thirds of my vote to these online efforts. There are 700,000 registered Republicans in Oregon and, counting associated family members, with this technology we reached, literally 70% of them, multiple times each. (See the quite fascinating social media statistics for my primary race, in Appendix O).

Think about this: “Just because a candidate is clueless about social media, doesn’t mean social media is useless.”

I could have knocked on doors for six hours a day, reaching maybe 100 households. With Facebook, in that same six hours I was able to reach over 1,000 households.

Knute Buehler and Greg Wooldridge went the “click-farm” route, to gather a bit over 10,000 followers each, with very few of those subscribers giving a whit about a Republican Primary election in Oregon, because very few of them were from the U.S..

This is important and illustrates my point about the utter cluelessness of candidates and the general media when it comes to social media: In a December 31st, 2018 interview with The Bulletin, Knute Buehler stated he would “continue to speak out about long-ignored issues in the state…” And said he plans to use tools left over from his campaign: “I have a big following on Facebook and Twitter.” Truth is he has, comparatively speaking, zero following. He either knows that fact and is BS’ing the newspaper and readers, or he simply doesn’t understand simple statistics. For instance, he made a political post on December 28, 2018 and six days later, on January 3rd of this new year he had 21 Likes, 4 Comments and 4 Shares. Those were typical numbers he realized all through his campaign. In contrast, I did a post on that same day, and in that same interval had 2,654 Likes, 197 Comments, and 97 Shares.

And Knute Buehler, even after another six months of campaigning for the general election, was yet to reach 15,000 followers by November 6th, while I have over 90,000 followers… eight months after we stopped campaigning.

And old-school political pundits (that is most political pundits) really don’t get it. Here’s Jim Moore, director of the Tom McCall Center for Policy Innovation at Pacific University, in a Bend Bulletin interview on May 13, 2018, just before the primary elections. He said, “The demographics of the primary are older than the general election,” Moore said. “…if they are on Facebook, it’s likely just to check up on what their grandchildren are doing.” Baloney. Here’s what our marketing chief, Marcello, found: 56.96% of the Facebook page audience was composed of people over 55 (54,800 total), almost 50-50 between men and women, with an average of 20,000 interactions (Likes, Loves, Shares, Comments) per month.

Moore is correct about demographics and Twitter usage, but his thoughts regarding older Facebook users are flat-out wrong, (and more than a little condescending.)

Jim Moore might think about getting caught up on what’s-happening-now.

I remain astounded at the social media obliviousness out there, an obliviousness that seems to have no boundaries outside the tiny realm of those who use social media to actually accomplish something.

But being successful in social media isn’t a simple thing, and success does require more than hard work. There are three vital requirements: First, the candidate’s technical operators must be careful not to spam. They must abide, for instance, with Facebook's guidelines, policies, and codes of conduct. Facebook is ruthless about shutting down pages if their rules aren't followed (as Bruce Cuff, to his chagrin, found out more than once in this most recent gubernatorial primary campaign). The best social media people carefully work within the rules while gaining the maximum benefit at the lowest cost, always remembering the Facebook bias against conservatives.

Second, the technical specialist must know how to target audiences, test and analyze results, experiment while being ruthlessly consistent, and maintain a hard-wired, fail-safe editing protocol.

And yes, the necessary third requirement is the candidate’s investment of significant numbers of hours per day communicating with voters.

Diana and Justy

But here’s the catch: good luck finding adept technical and management people to get all of this done properly. The complication is that the vast majority of young social media-savvy operatives are progressive Democrats. I know what I’m talking about here: I’m majority-owner of a social media marketing company, PathwayOne, that specializes in business and conservative-only political social media marketing. There is a huge demand for conservative social media professionals. There just aren’t many out there.

Notwithstanding the above, with just Facebook alone – and if the candidate is viable and stays out of trouble – the effort will (and I’m not joking) add 60% or more to the final vote count and, with this, the candidate will very probably win.

I know that sounds incredible, but it’s true. It’s just that few know anything about the technology and its potential.

We attribute 60,000 of my total of 90,000 votes to our social media/Facebook efforts. The cost per vote? A bit more than a dollar each.

Yes, we did some regular mass media with mailings and radio, but these traditional expensive methods can be significantly notched back in favor of using more effective and inexpensive social media, talking one-on-one with voters.

Political consultants are not keen on social media because it’s so inexpensive. They make a 15% commission on ad-buys and so social media is a tiny fraction of the money they can make compared with expensive print and broadcast media. More on this in the next chapter.

Should the candidate use surrogates to engage on social media? Our judgement is, no. The candidate must personally do the huge bulk of the interaction. But having said that, in the last weeks of the primary campaign, Diana handled a significant share of the incoming inquiries and comments, always identifying herself, building up her own legitimacy and ultimately, an enthusiastic personal following.

Rule of thumb: Whatever the medium, never, ever BS your constituents. Voters will quickly discover even a small fraud and your candidacy will be doomed. Respect your voters and never lose their trust.

As I mentioned earlier, in the primary race, via social media, we communicated directly with a total of over 200,000 separate Republican voters. It’s incredibly potent, but I’ll say this again, too: there are no short cuts: you must do it right and you must work hard at it.

And remember this critical distinction: social media is not a marketing tool. It’s a communication vehicle. Its purpose is to allow you to communicate back and forth with people; not to sell them something (although that is what will happen, indirectly, as you sell yourself by just being a good listener and taking the time to respond…).