The DA’s social media strategy

Last week, we launched our new DA official website, as well as Contribute to Change, our social networking platform for DA volunteers. A number of people have blogged about it, and I’d say the verdict is, on balance, positive. However, some of the negative commentary has generated some debate.

I’ve been trying to keep up, and comment, but I thought I would put a few thoughts down here that might provide a bit more clarity on what the DA is trying to achieve with its Social Media (SM) strategy.

Our objective in SM is not to go out and convert millions of undecided voters or ANC supporters to vote DA. Perhaps, in our engagement online, we may swing someone who was undecided or leaning another way, but they’re not our primary focus, at least not initially.

The primary focus of our SM strategy is on existing DA supporters who are already favourable towards the DA. Contribute to Change is a platform for our supporters to get involved in the party and its election campaign, and contribute in whatever way they want to. It is a home for people who are already acting, or who want to act, as brand ambassadors for the DA. It makes it easier for them to be effective as brand ambassadors.

While we are relinquishing control of the message by inviting our supporters to become the messengers, we believe the risk is outweighed by the positive – namely, thousands of supporters authentically and convincingly marketing the DA to their peers.

So, no, our SM strategy is not about breaking into new markets. It is about activating our support base to shift undecided voters our way, and to turn out DA supporters on Election Day.

On a final note, just as the DA (or any political party, for that matter) needs to try and see things from the perspective of the ordinary voter, so too do those that are immersed in social media need to take a step back and consider the experience of the less-initiated. There are highly variable experiences and expectations.

So while the social media gurus expect a response to an @message on Twitter, many of us lesser mortals are pretty stoked to get regular updates of Helen’s campaign schedule, along with the occasional comment on an event or experience. Should Helen stay off  Twitter just because she has a pretty punishing campaign schedule, not to mention keeping things running smoothly in the City of Cape Town? I think far more of her followers would be disappointed with that, than with the reply feature not being used.

Barack Obama didn’t use Twitter for conversation, and neither did Seth Godin while I was following him (in fact, I recall the latter never even followed his followers back). The point is, Twitter is one channel, and it is being used to provide a particular service.

There are a number of other SM channels where the DA is engaging directly. So please feel free to engage us.


9 Responses to “The DA’s social media strategy”

  1. 1 Darren 24 February 2009 at 1:18 pm

    Fair response Ant. I can totally understand what you are saying about the channel [particularly Twitter] not being used interactively but rather as an update of current goings on.

    I also understand the objective being to mobilise the existing supporters, potentially a very good one.

    As I mentioned in my post [“What are we voting for? Please tell us.”], I believe there’s a great opportunity to inform voters exactly what the party stands for – something that increasingly needs to be communicated clearly. I hope it was taken as constructive criticism rather than negative commentary, as I would really love to see it happen.

    Good luck with your plans for the sites.

  2. 2 Roy Blumenthal 24 February 2009 at 2:29 pm

    Hiya Ant…

    A clarity note… The ‘Seth Godin’ account on Twitter has been suspended. It was never run by Seth, and was run without his permission.

    The ‘lack of response’ from a person who APPEARED to be Seth Godin created a tremendous amount of ill-will. To the point that Seth himself found it necessary to take a stand on the issue. (I’m responding via my phone, so I’m unable to search Seth’s blog for the relevant post.)

    If Helen Zille is on Twitter, it’s impwrative that she use it *AS* a Twitter-user. If she doesn’t, she runs the risk of being seen to be abusing Twitter and her Twitter followers. Twitter is a communication tool, *NOT* a marketing tool.

    Comparing Zille to Obama is disengenuous. Zille DOES have time to Tweet. If she doesn’t, then her Twitter account should be STAFFED, and should be transparently biographied as such.

    Something along the lines of, ‘This Twitter acc exists to let DA supporters know what’s happening in Helen Zille’s campaign. It is staffed by three DA volunteers who will respond to Tweets under their own names.’

    That I would believe. What currently exists is utter rubbish. Infuriating rubbish. I *KNOW* that Helen Zille herself isn’t staffing her Twitter acc. (And my ‘knowledge’ is actually just my perception… A perception that Zille and the DA are NOT doing their best to manage.)

    Blue skies

  3. 3 Vincent Hofmann. 24 February 2009 at 2:55 pm

    Thanks for the link to my opinionated blog. Thanks for your comments and discussion on moral fibre, I actually really appreciated the fact that you remained calm in spite of the fact that I was being, true to my self, argumentative and arrogant. It’s what I do – because like many other writers I have multiple persona’s which I apply to various contexts, as I’m sure you do.

    Ono matters more relevant. Contribute to Change rocks, I’ve told your team this many times, apparently they reject such positive sentiments as facetiousness but what can I do, apparently some guy called Vincent Hoffman is masquerading as me on your site – who knows what damage he’ll continue to do. I also tried to remain very civil when communicating with a guy called Gareth on C2C and he insisted on attempting to take the tone of an expert when I was merely pointing out how one might react to said arrogance. It was pretty damned ironic to have to debate with an individual representing a party, who suggests they are open, transparent and ready to tackle critique head on about those very points. Don’t let a party representative knock potential voters and most certainly don’t encourage to them to stoop so low as to ask to compare Moral Fibre’s (our small community site) stats with the DA’s C2C site what kind of PR strategy is that? I thought d**k measuring was for kids.

    Yeah as I said on the C2C site, it’s such a pity because a) I made my point and enjoyed chatting to you about it and b) I joined the C2C site to engage with your writers who misquoted and misunderstood me. I had every intention, unlike many others who refused to register, of contributing meaningfully to your site – as I’ve said on one of the posts about me, I literally grew up “in” the DA – it has been the only party I’ve respected throughout the entirety of my life – don’t let your representatives taint that with their constant need to have the last say.

    Until we chat again, I gave out my number to Gareth, I’ll do it again, contact me on 082 418 4785, I have no hidden agendas. I am not a SM Guru or a budhist – promise.

  4. 4 ahazell 24 February 2009 at 3:42 pm

    @Darren Thanks, I think I did read your post. It was quite a thing to try and reference all the posts about our launch. How would you describe your ideal means of finding out what the DA (or any party for that matter) is offering voters in the election? Now that we’ve got our new website up, I’d really like to look at how we can add more value to visitors.

    @Roy Thanks for the clarity on Seth Godin. I hadn’t read about it not being him. The account doesn’t seem to be suspended; it’s just protected. You can’t automatically follow.

    I don’t agree with you about Twitter, though. Early-adopters have used Twitter as a means of instant messaging, but at its core, it’s a micro-blogging site. Also, how is it disingenuous to compare Helen and Obama? They are both on the campaign trail, and they both use Twitter to provide updates on the campaign without using the @ function. In considering whether to create a twitter account for Helen, we looked at how Obama used his account. As I said in my post, for a lot of people, it’s a pretty cool way to get quick and regular updates on the DA’s campaign through the activities of its leader.

  5. 5 ahazell 24 February 2009 at 4:44 pm

    @Vincent I read the exchange between you and Gareth and I have to say, I thought you overreacted to his initial comment a bit. I think the tone of his response to your comment was in reaction to your tone. There is nothing wrong with adopting an argumentative persona online, but I think you should expect to get an argument in return.

    He did, after all, encourage readers of his blog on C2C to read your post and decide for themselves. Had he not made reference to it, I doubt anyone within the C2C community would ever have found out about your post.

    So contrary to your assertion that the DA was bunkering down behind a password-protected site, I would argue that Gareth was being open with subscribers to that site about the fact that not all reviews of the new sites had been positive – albeit with a brief value judgment of his own. Just my 2 cents worth.

  6. 6 ahazell 26 February 2009 at 9:19 am

    A quick update on Helen’s Twitter account. We’ve created another general DA campaign account, VotetoWin.

    A staffer on Helen’s campaign team will be monitoring questions @HelenZille and responding via @VotetoWin. So follow both 🙂

  7. 7 rodgerhoffman 27 February 2009 at 6:35 am

    Well written Anthony, you guys have been doing a fabulous job of your online strategy. It has been great to work with you and the DA team. I am amazed at how forward thinking the party is. Best of luck with the road ahead!

  1. 1 Ants World Trackback on 26 February 2009 at 10:57 am
  2. 2 ANC online banner campaign | Jason Elk Trackback on 14 March 2009 at 8:49 am

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