CGM Voices by author: Anwen Pattinson

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Digital keys to unlocking political popularity

Digital keys to unlocking political popularity

By Anwen Pattinson

What makes a politician popular on Facebook? To the untrained eye, it might not make sense that Premier Mark McGowan has 100,000 more Facebook followers than Queensland Premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk, who represents a state twice as populous as Western Australia. But dig a little deeper, and you will find there is some method to the political popularity madness.

The recent WA state election saw Facebook used to an extent that it had not been seen before in West Australian politics. It would be easy to focus on the money spent on Facebook advertising given that between just Premier Mark McGowan and Zak Kirkup’s campaigns, more than $130,000 was spent on Facebook election advertising.

However, throwing money at a digital campaign does not guarantee its success. Rather, campaign success on Facebook relies heavily on a candidate’s presence and persona built outside the campaigning dates and, most importantly, their ability to find the line between the two.

So let me take you behind the scenes on what makes a successful political profile in the digital world.

First, what does Facebook itself say about what makes a successful political profile on their platform?

  • Be themselves. High-performing profiles are often those that understand what their own personal attributes are and are not shy in promoting them to their audience. However, they also ensure that their tone is consistent.
  • Be authentic. Politicians and candidates should bring their audience behind the scenes, showing or explaining things their followers would otherwise not easily know or understand.
  • Be engaging. Make sure a relationship is built between the politician and their audience. In short, what is being said is what the audience needs or wants to hear.

While this information seems simple and logical, finding the balance between being both authentic and engaging, while still being yourself is far more difficult than it appears.

Take our current WA Premier, whose Facebook presence is clear and engaging, yet still shows a personal side. What can be learnt from Mark McGowan’s overall popularity through the prism of Facebook?

Let’s look at some of the key areas that Facebook has identified as important and see how our Premier stacks up.

Be themselves:

I believe that this is Premier McGowan’s social media strength. One thing that is immediately noticeable to me when looking at his Facebook is that his tone is consistent. It is consistent with what he says in press conferences and also on his other social media platforms.

This consistency does not mean that his message and delivery is the same under all circumstances. Rather, there is consistency within each tone of voice, meaning a joke about April Fool’s or kebabs will have the same tone of voice, while an update regarding interstate borders or discussing a snap lockdown will be treated with tonal gravity.

This consistency is impressive given that most politicians do not write their own social media posts. The Premier’s staff appear to have a clear and comprehensive understanding of when each tone of voice should be used and is delivering them effectively.

Be authentic:

Creating authentic posts that bring followers behind the scenes or break down comprehensive news is also something Premier McGowan has done well over the past year.

The Premier’s authenticity, I believe, was best seen in the last year when communicating with West Australians about the Clive Palmer court case. This was a complicated issue that had the ability to be spun purely through a political lens, but Premier McGowan brought his followers behind the scenes in a different way, explaining the complexities while also providing reassurance.

Be engaging:

So, how does one create content that is authentic, and shows a part of themselves, while also being engaging? The answer is trust. Trust and time.

By being authentic and not shying away from taking followers behind the scenes, followers often begin to feel that they know the politician and that posts are being written with them in mind.

This trust assists in building the correct level of importance for each post, providing gravity to serious topics, while giving licence for followers to have fun with posts that encourage it.

This might be how Premier McGowan’s post announcing seven months of no community transmission in November 2020 had the same number of likes as his recent post announcing new state emblems for April Fool’s.

There are examples everywhere of political figures, domestically and internationally, who have managed to build that level of trust with their audiences in their own unique way. For example, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinta Ardern does this by showing herself in a personable way, often jumping on a Facebook live to answer questions from everyday New Zealanders.

So, what do I suggest for politicians trying to find their way on Facebook?

They should ask themselves if they think their followers trust them and their message. If the answer is no, perhaps peeling back the curtain to show authenticity and not just a polished finished product might be the way forward.

Does your digital presence match your brand messaging?

Does your digital presence match your brand messaging?

By Anwen Pattinson

The introduction of social media fundamentally changed the way brands, community groups and businesses interacted with their audiences.

Social media has quickly evolved from a person-to-person communication tool into an online advertising powerhouse. This evolution has allowed organisations to communicate directly with thousands of customers on a personal level, which had never been possible before. The flood of behind-the-scenes content and the rise of video advertising is a testament to that. 

However, therein lies the rub. By taking advantage of the freedoms that social media offers, an organisation can fall into the trap of communicating in a way it would never consider appropriate on any other channel, and one that may be inconsistent with its wider brand messaging.

This departure from brand messaging is rarely sudden, but rather a slow deviation that creates a confusing message and an eventual dilution of the brand.

Here are some of the most commonly seen missteps, which could lead to an organisation’s social media presence uncoupling from its brand.

  1. No clear brand messaging across the board.

This is one of the most commonly seen issues on social media, often in small businesses, where the disconnect in messaging comes from a poorly defined brand.

Without a clearly defined and integrated communications plan, there can be no way that a brand’s digital presence can be expected to remain consistent with messaging used across more traditional communication channels such as websites or press releases.

Communications plans need not be long and complicated documents, however they should contain certain key pieces of information to ensure that communication is clear and consistent. This information includes organisational goals and objectives, key messages, target audiences, and the brand’s position in the marketplace. As part of a communications plan, there should be a content calendar providing details on the type of content to be published on each channel, on what date, and to which audience.

  1. The ‘just throw it up on Facebook’ excuse.

Another commonly seen issue is when an organisation takes a piece of content that does not fit on any of their other communication channels, yet publishes it on social platforms, without asking the question as to whether it is providing value to their social media audience.

Not formal enough for the website? Throw it up on Facebook. Not quite long enough for a press release? Pop it on LinkedIn. It is seen time and time again and it is a guaranteed way to dilute a brand.

This issue further highlights the need for a communications plan. Spend some time to understand who your audience is and why you are communicating with them before pressing that post button.

  1. Set and forget mindset

A set and forget mindset is something that can damage a brand’s message in an instant.

A social media post, with the right image, message, and tone can be completely undone by posting it and then not monitoring it for performance and, most importantly, comments.

If nobody reviews previous posts for comments and overall sentiment, a few negative comments can suddenly derail the message. Add to that negative, or off-brand, Facebook shares and suddenly the best-intended post can land itself far off target.

Beyond that, in 2019 an Australian judge ruled that publishers are legally responsible for moderating comments on Facebook and can even be found responsible for defamatory comments that are allowed to stay visible.

Furthermore, if social media posts are not reviewed for performance such as shares, comments, and engagement it can make it difficult to identify that perhaps a post’s poor performance is due to a diluted or confusing brand message. 

Avoiding these common mistakes

While issues with social media messaging can be varied and wide-ranging, there are some simple ways in which a brand can tighten their messaging to ensure there is continuity across communication channels.

  1. Always have an integrated communications plan that identifies the communication objectives and provides examples of messaging to be used on different channels.
  2. Be prepared to say no to posting on social media. If the post doesn’t have a message that matches the brand, or if there isn’t a clear purpose for posting, the question needs to be asked as to whether it is needed.
  3. Monitor social media posts. While it can be time consuming, it is paramount that brands keep an eye on how their audiences are reacting to their posts before comments get out of hand.