March 31, 2015 10.31 am This story is over 85 months old

Social elections: How the government is flocking to social media

Making the most out of social media: From politicians to businesses, Penny Reeve explores the best and worst ways to tap into new audiences.

It’s been five years since the last general election, when Twitter was just a forum for businesses and nerds and Facebook was purely a tool to find old school friends and show them what a great life you’re living.

Fast forward to 2015 and social media is a heady mix of fun, business and socio-political statements.

Even the Government has caught up with the social media movement and is using it to gain those all-important votes in this year’s general election.

Whether it’s online Q&A sessions, televised debates answering questions posed by people on Twitter and Facebook, politicians are getting down with the general public and chatting to them on that great leveller, social media.

One reason for this move towards a more IT-based approach to canvassing is to connect with younger voters, who have a worryingly low voting rate, with fewer than 44% declaring they will cross the ballot paper come May 7.

Any politicians that can tap into the young demographic tap into a wealth of votes that could swing the ever-changing campaign pendulum.

As with any policy, there is a risk in taking to Twitter in the run up to the election. Social media is a real-time way of connecting people and for those a little trigger happy with their ‘tweet’ buttons, faux pas can be easily made.

These tweets can go viral and give lots of coverage to the author, but not necessarily the kind of publicity they want. Who can forget Ed Balls’ first tweet? Or Brooks Newmark’s Twitter flirtation…with a fake account created by a journalist.

Despite these errors, politicians have found that engaging with their audience in social media can be a great tool for engagement as long as it’s well maintained and properly ‘voiced’. This is something that, if your business hasn’t yet done, you should really take inspiration from.

Ensuring that your brand has a strong media presence is one of the best ways to connect with your audience in 2015. Whether a politician or a small business, you can become approachable, funny and endearing to your audience by creating a strong ‘voice’.

Here are a few tips to ensure you’re making the most out of your social media accounts:

Less can be more

Don’t spam your followers. Well timed social media posts are much more likely to get your attention than sending out a glut of information which is likely to get lost in the buzz of social media.

A promoted post is a far reaching post

So, you have something important to say. Why not spend a bit of money to get your post seen by more people? Just a few pounds spent on social media can spread your message to people who otherwise wouldn’t see it, giving you lots of return on your (minimal) investment.

Planning makes perfect

To minimise your risk of making a social media faux pas, you have to plan, check and check again. You might throw out the odd ad-hoc tweet but having a social media planner that highlights important diary dates and suggested posts will make for a much more cohesive social media page. Using Facebook or Twitter’s scheduling tool is also a good way to manage and plan social media content.

Don’t try the ‘hard sell’

People who take to Twitter with the sole intention of sending out soulless messages, even if they are informative, are less likely to impress than those who try to engage their audience. A healthy mix of information and engagement is what you should be aiming for.

Have fun

Social media is around for just that, being sociable. Engage your fans and show them your human side. A fun Friday post, or an interesting fact can endear you to your followers and gain you a good reputation.

Shake it off

Okay, so you’ve made a mistake. Much like Ed Balls’ eponymous tweet, if you make a mistake on social media, make sure you can laugh it off. If you make a joke out of an error it’s much more likely to paint you in a positive light, as a human who makes mistakes rather than someone who can’t admit when they’ve made an error, or tries to cover it up.

Respond and react

Social media is all about interaction, which means if someone asks a question they expect a response, and quickly! Be warned though; don’t get drawn into responding to every comment as this will quickly take over and become very time consuming.

After travelling the world, Penny settled back into the UK and entered the world of public relations. After gaining three years experience of the profession in the renewables industry, Penny joined Lava as an Account Manager. In her spare time, Penny is the community editor for Nottingham-based magazine LeftLion and plays roller derby for the Nottingham Roller Girls.