In early 2015, one pundit declared 2016 the “Meerkat Election,” but the app itself was shut down just a month before Election Day. This is a cautionary tale for campaigners considering whether or not to join the latest social media network to hit the app store. How can you distinguish fad from phenomenon?
Every campaign needs to be active on Facebook and Twitter – those are the bare minimum in 2020 – but what about other networks like LinkedIn, Snapchat, or TikTok? In my experience, for most campaigns, it’s hard to do the basics right and even after that there’s more ground to cover on Facebook and Twitter.
Simply ignoring other networks, however, could mean missing out on an opportunity for your campaign, so here’s a framework for considering whether or not your campaign should join a new social media platform.
Does it serve campaign objectives?
Campaigns have four goals: earning votes, raising money, getting attention, and upsetting your opponents. Everything you do – online and off – must be in service of these priorities.
If you can’t articulate a path from engagement on a new social media platform to achieving campaign objectives, your time and resources will be wasted.
Is the social network widely used by target audiences?
Creating content for a social media platform won’t do your campaign any good if it doesn’t get you in front of the voters, donors, activists, and influencers you’re trying to reach.
In this case, it’s helpful to think of social media like an event or gathering. Will there be enough of the right people there to merit spending the time? Conversely, are they unreachable on your current platforms?
Is there a way to turn followers into supporters?
Social media platforms will always be shared audiences. Your digital campaign is about building owned audiences like email lists, text messaging opt-ins, and website traffic.
Can the social network help drive your followers (either organically or with ads) through a marketing funnel in order to take action like signing up for email updates or donating?
Can you reliably create the content needed to grow your audience?
The network effects of a social media platform – reaching a larger audience – require engagement and content creation. How much work you need to put into a post and how frequently you should post varies.
There’s no point in joining a network if you’re unable to participate fully.
While 2016 wasn’t the Meerkat Election some predicted it would be, the app did herald the advent of live social streaming, which is now standard on most social media platforms. Campaigns that remained focused on social networks that clearly served campaign objectives, were already widely used, and had a pathway for converting followers into supporters were able to access a new content type via Periscope on Twitter and Facebook Live on Facebook.