Twitter for Political Campaigns | National Democratic Training Committee

Twitter, though not as wide-reaching as Facebook, is an important element of a campaign’s digital strategy. Today, we’re here to help you establish an active, effective, and engaging Twitter page for your campaign.

Using Twitter for political campaigns can be tricky, so we’ll offer some insight into building an effective social media strategy.

When you first run for office, you want to take advantage of any opportunity to spread your message. People need to know who you are, why you’re running, and why they should support you.

Why Twitter for Political Campaigns?

Twitter is an invaluable tool for a candidate because of the audience it attracts. Twitter is heavily used by the media, as well as the political world.  You want to create and broadcast news on this platform.

A campaign can use Twitter to target media, reach out to other political organizations, or connect with staffers and volunteers. Having a Twitter presence opens doors for your campaign that other social media platforms don’t.

Short and Sweet

In addition, Twitter offers a useful exercise for candidates, particularly those running for the first time: brevity.

Twitter forces you to condense your thoughts into brief statements (280 characters). Sure, you can start a thread, but most people won’t take the time to read through the entire thing. Instead, it’s worthwhile to spend time formulating tweets to present your message concisely.

Getting Set Up

Even if you’re already on Twitter in your personal life, you’ll want to create an account specifically for campaign use. Not only does it lend a sense of professionalism to your candidacy, but it helps keep your personal life separate from the campaign. This ensures the only tweets on your account are related to your candidacy.

However, it’s important to remember that even though you have a separate campaign account, you can’t post whatever you want on your personal one. Because you’re running for office, everything you post will be used as part of a voter’s evaluation of your candidacy. This includes anything that appears on your personal account. As a rule of thumb, no matter what you’re doing online, remember that you’re representing your campaign.

After you’ve registered the account, be sure to link it with your accounts on other social media platforms. This is a great opportunity to generate traffic for your other accounts, as well as help to lead people already connected with your  Facebook or Instagram to your Twitter page.

A Perfect Profile

Now, it’s time to set up your profile page. To start off, you’ll need to pick your Twitter handle (the @username people will see). Ideally, this will be identical (or at least similar) to the name used on your other social media accounts. This will help users coming from other platforms find your account on Twitter.

Secondly, make sure your profile has a picture of you. It will give your campaign a human face, and lets followers feel they’re interacting with a real person. This is particularly important for a public official.

Thirdly, create a bio that is concise, and provides the viewer a clear overview of who you are and the office you’re seeking. This is often the first impression a person on Twitter will have of you and your campaign.

For example, Megan Hammond, NDTC’s fictional candidate running for school board in Bear County, New Mexico, might say something like: “Mom. Public School advocate. Candidate for School Board. Fighting for Bear County students.” This bio gives anyone who sees it a clear idea of who Megan is, the values she stands for, and the office she’s running for.

Now that we’ve covered the basics of launching your Twitter presence, let’s get into some specifics of actually using Twitter for political campaigns.

Considerations for Posting on Twitter

Developing a Twitter strategy for your campaign requires understanding the algorithm (the set of rules determining the tweets someone sees) Twitter uses. Create your tweets with this algorithm in mind to create content that reaches voters.

Primary Factors of Twitter Algorithm (discussed in greater detail on Hootsuite)

  • Recency matters. When was the tweet first sent out? The newer the tweet, the more likely it is that the algorithm will bump it to the top of a user’s feed.
  • Media type: Does the tweet include a video, a GIF, a picture, or maybe a poll? All of these formats play a role in the algorithm’s calculus. If a Twitter user tends to interact with tweets that have polls, the algorithm will prioritize tweets with that format for the user to view. To reach a wider audience, mix up the media formats you use in your posts.
  • Engagement: Are people liking, retweeting, and commenting on a tweet? Twitter wants people to see tweets that are being engaged with, so it prioritizes these statistics in determining which tweets appear at the top of your feed.
  • Where is the user located? Are they consistently active on the site? Do they have a significant number of followers? These factors all play a part in the Twitter algorithm.

How to Grow a Following

If you’re new to Twitter, and even if you’ve had an account for years before running for office, you’ll need to put in some effort to build your following. Your Twitter account won’t be effective unless it reaches as many people as possible.

This is where your network comes into play. Just like with fundraising, you’ll want to leverage every contact you have to increase name recognition and ensure your account reaches the right people.

To start, ask everyone you know with a Twitter account, no matter how active they are, to like, retweet, and comment on your posts. More interaction with a tweet increases its exposure to people in your friends’ networks.

Once you’ve done that, find influencers in the policy areas you’ve built your campaign around. Put effort into connecting with them and get them to amplify your message. This can take the form of responding to an influencer’s tweet, retweeting, or liking their posts on issues that matter to you.

Interact and Engage

When posting, it’s good to give your followers opportunities to engage with you. For example, if talking about your stance on healthcare, put something at the end along the lines of “retweet if you agree that healthcare is a right.” This encourages followers to interact with your tweet, which will pay off with Twitter algorithm and allow your message to reach a wider audience.

Lastly, don’t be afraid to retweet other users. As long as their posts are relevant to your campaign and platform, you can generate goodwill with other Twitter users from the policy and political worlds to help boost your campaign.

When and How Often Should I Tweet?

Like with most elements of a campaign, you’re going to need to make a plan for your Twitter page. Lucky for you, we’ve put together a template for this.

At the beginning of each week, take the time to plan out the coming week’s Twitter content. There’s no magic number of tweets per day, so be sure the ones you do post highlight the core message of your campaign.

How to Time Your Tweets

What about the timing of tweets?

According to Hootsuite, the ideal window for tweeting is roughly nine o’clock AM to four o’clock PM EST during the week. In particular, their research shows that three o’clock PM is the optimal time for a tweet to be sent out.

Moz determined that the average lifespan for a tweet, unless you’re a major celebrity, is about eighteen minutes.

Scheduled Tweets. Real-Time Responses.

Ideally, the only time you ever need to write tweets in real-time will be:

  • To respond to a tweet that tags you or mentions you.
  • When you need to respond to an unanticipated issue of the day.

Everything else you post should be pre-planned and queued for posting in advance. As a candidate, you’ll be juggling a lot of responsibilities, so it’s important to minimize the daily effort needed for your social media accounts.

However, as we’ve already discussed, an important part of Twitter for political campaigns is engagement. People will respond to a candidate who interacts with them.

When people comment on your tweets or mention you, write them back. If you want to represent people in your community, they need to feel that their voices are being heard.

Hosting Twitter Chats, Twitter Town Halls, and other forms of user engagement can go a long way in spreading the word about your campaign.

Campaign posts need to fit into an overall strategy and be constantly monitored so you can gauge whether they’re working or not. Analytics will help you accomplish this.

Tweet Like a Political Pro

Social media is an integral part of a modern political campaign, so put yourself in the best position to succeed.

Use Twitter to show your momentum, to retweet articles relevant to your candidate and any news or issues related to broader policy areas.

Lastly, keep your links tidy. Use bitly or another link truncator that creates short URLs.

We hope that these tips about Twitter for political campaigns have been helpful. At NDTC, we’re committed to helping progressives across the country step up, organize, and run for office.

Looking to dive deeper? Check out our Digital 101 course!

This blog was a collaborative effort on the part of NDTC Interns Conor Hicks, Gisselle Cervantes, and Donald Riddle.

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Conor Hicks

Conor is a seventh-generation Oregonian, born and raised in the Central Oregon town of Redmond. While he has deep roots in both the Northwest and Midwest, he currently lives most of the year in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts, where he studies Political Science at Boston College. At NDTC, Conor is a member of the Communications team.