Political SEO: Common Mistakes Campaigns Make On Facebook

This post is largely a repost from New Media Campaigns.  Its spot on and I couldn’t say it better.  Some additional recommendations I’ve made for political candidates and their campaigns are included in:

Political SEO and Articles Politically Tagged the main article I have on this is Political SEO: SEO Tips For Political Campaign Websites

William Henry Harrison is the imagery I wanted you to consider when thinking about your social media and mistakes that could be made. As President of the United States he wasted no time in his inaugural address to deliver in detail his long plans for the country.  Speaking uncovered in torrential rains history blame’s his death on the blunder of talking so long in a downpour.  The end of a politician due to his messaging is the image I give you.

messaging kills politician

messaging kills politician

Top Mistakes Made In Social Media By Candidates

1. Not promoting it

The first tip is super-straightforward, but it is so important yet so often overlooked that it is worth mentioning first.  Once you create a Facebook page it needs to be promoted for voters and supporters to ever find it. Add a link to the page wherever you can online, including the campaign website, Twitter account, and Youtube video descriptions. Additionally, promote the page offline in places like on direct mail, campaign literature, TV ads, and in a candidate’s stump speeches.

Targeting Facebook ads to voters and potential supporters can also be tremendously cost-effective, so use some of the money budgeted for online ads (you are, right?) to promote the page.

2. Setting up a personal profile for a campaign

This is very basic, but I still see many campaigns get this wrong. Campaigns should be using a page, not a personal profile for a candidate.

3. Having both a personal profile and a page for a candidate

Facebook Profile and Page

Facebook Profile and Page

It’s the year 2012 and most people are on Facebook, including many candidates. Additionally, many candidates have been on Facebook for years now and accumulated quite a few friends. So the question often pops up on what should be done with a personal profile while a campaign is going on. It’s best to simply hide the personal one through the duration of the campaign so voters don’t get confused trying to decide which place to connect.

4. Profile Blunders

Many voters will be introduced to you for the very first time on social media. In many cases, they’ll be going to your profile as a starting point to learn more about you. Be sure you’re not making any of these basic errors:

  • Incomplete Profile: Fill everything out! If there is a description field, be sure to use it. If there’s space for your website, use it. If there’s space for any information, use it! Not only is it important to take advantage of the real estate these social networks give you, but incomplete profiles may sometimes leave the impression that you’re lazy, sloppy, or incompetent.
  • Missing Networks: All campaigns, most especially small ones, need to be extremely judicious with their resources. If you’re going to use a social network, you must commit to it. Failing to do so will leave a very poor impression. However, I strongly encourage you to at least register the same user name on every single social network possible. You don’t have to use it, but it will prevent squatters, trolls, and opponents from making mischief with them.
  • Wrong Image Sizes: Using images can be complicated. Most social networks now have both a profile picture and a banner image. These are both very different sizes and aspect ratios. It’s important to use an image with the proper aspect ratio in each circumstance. Most profile images are square, so attempting to use a logo or picture that’s very wide or very tall will not look right.

5. Neglecting to set up a vanity Facebook url (and as soon as possible)

Facebook Username

Facebook Username

As soon as a page hits a certain level of “likes” (currently 25), a personalized url can be set up for the page that makes it much easier to remember. For instance, the default url for your page will look something like: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Bob-Smithford/143854752232314.

A personalized Facebook url allows it to be a much simpler: http://www.facebook.com/bobsmithford.

Also, while this isn’t always possible, ideally this should be the same as your domain and usernames for every social network you are on. For example, take the Obama campaign: the domain name is barackobama.com, the Facebook url is facebook.com/barackobama, the Twitter username is @barackobama,  and the Youtube username is BarackObama. Keeping a name the same across platforms makes it much easier for supporters to find the pages.

6. Promoting a page on print and TV with just an icon instead of a url

On the web you can simply click an icon and it will take you to the website — but you can’t do this with a postcard or TV ad, so including a url is import so supporters can find a candidate’s Facebook page.



In the same way that you wouldn’t add an icon of a website and tell people to go there without mentioning the url, don’t only add a Facebook icon and expect people to find it on their own. Use the personalized url set up for your page and include that on any print or video pieces the campaign puts out.



7. Never looking at Facebook Insights

Facebook demographics

Facebook demographics

I’ve often found campaigns don’t realize the wealth of information they have access to through the Insights tab on a for the Facebook page. There a wide range of data that can provide insights things like:

  • the demographic makeup of those who “like” a page
  • the best times for posting and the most interacted with type of posts
  • the number of people reached through a post
  • number of interactions with a post
  • how many times a Facebook page has been viewed

8. Not setting up a custom landing tab

Facebook allows a tab other than the wall to be designated as the first tab visitors will see that visit a Facebook page and are not yet fans.  Facebook also gives us the ability to customize a tab specifically how we want it. By combining these two options, campaigns have a great opportunity to convert interested voters into supporters and supporters into donors, volunteers, and more. By default, visitors are shown the wall of a page.

As an example, take a look at how Mitt Romney’s landing tab is currently set up. While there is more to it than is probably necessary, it includes valuable elements like an email signup, donation call to action, and more information for voters on why Romney should be President.

Another example is the signup shown on Elizabeth Warren’s Facebook page:

9. Auto-posting tweets to Facebook

Facebook and Twitter may both be social networks, but both are different from each other in how best to use them. Many campaigns are tempted to autopost tweets from a campaign Twitter account to a Facebook page (or vice versa), but doing doing so removes the ability to customize messaging for the platform.

There many reasons not to do this, but here are a few:

  • Facebook allows more characters than Twitter, so it makes sense to take advantage of that and use when necessary
  • Facebook gives users the ability to attach links, videos, and picture with a status update. This is lost when autoposting
  • It looks lazy to voters
  • There’s a good chance a campaign will not notice and consequently not respond to any comments people may leave on the Facebook update
  • It’s much more likely that you will inadvertently barrage users with too many status updates because Twitter is set up for more frequent updates than Facebook

10. Using the Facebook page to dump press releases and official statements

Keep the press releases and official statements to the reporters and customize your message with a more personal feel for people on Facebook. Press releases are boring, so resist the urge to directly post these to a page. If you do, don’t expect fans to actually want to read what is posted. Instead post pictures, videos, and shorter messages that people will actually look at.

Compare North Carolina Governor Bev Perdue’s Facebook page to Florida Governor Rick Scott’s Facebook page. Which do you find more interesting?

Perdue FB

Perdue FB

Scott FB

Scott FB

11. Adding the position sought to the candidate’s Facebook page title

This is something I know other people disagree with, but I strongly believe that the title for a Facebook page should only be the candidate’s name and nothing more. For example, use “Frank Miller” instead of “Frank Miller for Springfield City Council” because once Frank Miller gets elected, he will want to keep using the Facebook page but the “for Springfield City Council” will no longer be correct. Alternatively, if Frank loses and runs for mayor in two years, the previous page will no longer be able to be used and the campaign will have to start from scratch again.

Facebook doesn’t allow changing a page title if there are over 100 likes, and it’s an awful feeling when you realize the page you worked hard to build to hundreds or thousands of fans is no longer able to be used because the title is incorrect. Keep it simple and stick with solely the candidate’s name — in the long run you will be glad.

12. Twitter Chats, a.k.a. The Online “Kick Me” Sign

Don’t. Ever. Just say no to Twitter chats. You are absolutely falling for the online version of someone hanging a “Kick Me” sign on your back. It invites all of the opponents and trolls on to your timeline and hands them a golden opportunity to counter your arguments and cast you in a negative light.

If you’re not familiar with the term “Twitter chat,” they’re a public, online conversation that uses Twitter hashtags to ask questions and solicit answers. Users can search for the Twitter tag and see all of the comments from any Twitter user who wishes to jump into the conversation.

While this example is a company and not a political candidate, a recent Twitter chat hosted by women’s clothing apparel-maker Lane Bryant illustrates some of the dangers

13. Flaming Out

If you decide to engage on a social media channel, make sure you understand the time commitment and then stick to it An abandoned social media account forces people to wonder why. Did you suspend your campaign? Did your social media coordinator quit? Are you running out of money? Did you plan poorly? Whether or not they’re the case, you don’t want any of those questions even crossing a voter’s mind.

14. Be Sociable

The word “social” in social media is really important. Think about it for a second. It’s a term we use so frequently, it’s easy to stop thinking about the meaning of the words. The whole point is to be social and communicate with the public.

The first rule of being sociable is responsiveness. Rightly or wrongly, people expect fast responses on social media. If you’re a candidate for local office, you will likely have voters asking you questions directly on social media. Be sure to answer them all and answer them as quickly as possible.

And if you’re going to be a political candidate using social media, be prepared for negative comments. It comes with the territory. But when we say “be prepared,” we mean be prepared to respond, not to censor. It’s natural to feel like you need to keep your account positive, but if word gets around that you’re deleting negative comments, you’re going to be perceived as thin-skinned and/or a weak leader. If possible, try to assemble a rapid response team of friends, family, and volunteers to respond positively to negative comments.

Keeping these 14 rules of political campaigns and social media will help you whether you’re running for dog catcher or president.  Remember just like we’re taught to dress for the job you want, you should campaign for the office you want.

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Political SEO: Common Mistakes Campaigns Make On Facebook

Which 2020 Candidates Have The Most In Common … On Twitter?

The 2020 Democratic presidential candidates use Twitter like an earlier generation of politicians may have used a soapbox: to announce policy plans, solicit donations, marshal their supporters and criticize the current administration.

Each of these candidates is speaking to his or her own virtual village square. But how many people spend time in more than one village? How much overlap is there between, say, Elizabeth Warren’s audience and Bernie Sanders’s? And which candidates are most often associated with one another, based on their Twitter followers?

Twitter isn’t real life, of course; it’s an often-ridiculous short-burst social network that is decidedly not representative of the electorate at large. But it’s still a slice of life. The people following candidates on Twitter are those who want to receive a steady stream of information about at least part of the 2020 campaign. Understanding how that tribe operates can tell us something about an influential slice of the electorate.

So off our web-scraper went, dredging up every follower of the 20 Democratic presidential candidates who FiveThirtyEight considered “major” in early May, when we ran our script.9 The result was a data set with almost 20 million entries, which you can download on GitHub.

This data reveals the obvious, such as raw follower counts. It also reveals more subtle trends, such as which candidates’ followers are loyal, which cast a broad net, which seem to have a similar appeal and which apparently have nothing in common.

For starters, here are the candidates ranked by the share of their followers who don’t follow any other 2020 Democratic candidate.

Candidates whose followers are loyal only to them

Share of each 2020 candidate’s followers who don’t follow any other candidates

@marwilliamson 2,610,335
@BernieSanders 9,254,423
@Hickenlooper 144,816
@CoryBooker 4,246,252
@JoeBiden 3,558,333
@AndrewYang 267,897
@TulsiGabbard 349,443
@BetoORourke 1,424,745
@amyklobuchar 692,985
@PeteButtigieg 1,033,834
@SenGillibrand 1,410,303
@KamalaHarris 2,640,072
@JulianCastro 212,582
@sethmoulton 138,450
@JayInslee 51,504
@ewarren 2,486,101
@TimRyan 20,080
@JohnDelaney 20,266
@MichaelBennet 21,053
@ericswalwell 84,415

Among candidates who were considered “major” by FiveThirtyEight as of May 8. Follower lists for each candidate’s primary accounts (according to a CSPAN Twitter list) were scraped from May 8-15, except for @Hickenlooper, which was scraped on June 6 to correct a coding error.

Almost three-quarters of the people who follow Marianne Williamson — a “spiritual and inspirational author, lecturer, non-profit activist,” per her Twitter bio — don’t follow any other Democratic candidate, putting them in a loyalty class all their own. Similarly, of the over 9 million people who follow Bernie Sanders, almost two-thirds follow no other candidate.

The 2.5 million people who follow Elizabeth Warren, on the other hand, are more gregarious — 84 percent of them follow at least one of her Democratic rivals. Ditto the 2.6 million people who follow Kamala Harris, 78 percent of whom also follow another candidate.

Digging a little deeper into the follower interaction information, we can find out, for example, which other candidates Warren’s followers are paying attention to. The Venn diagrams below try to answer that question, showing the overlap in followers between every candidate who had more than 500,000 followers in early May.

This chart reveals relatively large intersections between followers of Sanders and Warren, who share progressive policy platforms; between followers of Pete Buttigieg and Beto O’Rourke, who are both young, male and white; and between Harris and other major female candidates such as Warren, Kirsten Gillibrand and Amy Klobuchar.

Follower overlap patterns seem to share some similarities with Democrats’ vote preferences, too. Morning Consult has been tracking voters’ second-choice candidates, and according to the latest poll, respondents who planned to vote for Warren said their top backup choices were Harris and Sanders. Similarly, on Twitter, 60 percent of Warren’s followers also follow Sanders, and 37 percent each follow Harris and Biden — her largest overlap groups.

With some simple calculations, we can look past the sheer size of each Twitter overlap and get a sense for which pairs of candidates share some quality (ideology, Twitter skills, who knows) that makes them appeal to the same people. Theoretically, people could be following multiple presidential candidates at random, but that’s not how Twitter really works — if one account speaks to my interests, I’m likely to be interested in similar accounts.

To figure out which candidates are getting paired up more often than we’d expect based on chance alone, we rely on a number that data miners call “lift,” which is the ratio of how many followers a pair actually has to how many followers we’d expect them to have based solely on their individual Twitter popularity.10 For example, say we have 100 total Twitter users, and 50 of them follow Sanders while 10 of them follow Warren. If the reasons that a person followed Sanders had nothing to do with the reasons they followed Warren, we’d expect the overlap between the two to be five users. If it turns out that 10 users follow both Warren and Sanders, then we have a lift value of two (twice as many as expected), which means we can speculate that the two candidates share some quality that appeals to the same people. If only one user follows both, then we have a lift of 0.2 (one-fifth as many as expected), and we would suspect that there’s something about each candidate that drives away some people who follow the other candidate.

In the chart below, candidate pairs are organized by lift value, so those above the dotted line have more followers in common than you’d expect by chance while those below the line have fewer.

Some of the pairs that float above the line on this chart also stood out in the Venn diagrams, such as Harris and Warren, Harris and Gillibrand and O’Rourke and Buttigieg. O’Rourke and Julian Castro also have a relatively large overlap, perhaps because they’re both from Texas. The small dots at the very top capture overlaps that are tens of times larger than we’d expect to see if the candidates’ appeals to followers were unrelated. That’s probably because users who follow one lesser-known candidate such as Michael Bennet or John Delaney are likely to be highly engaged in the race and follow the other candidates as well. For example, the average Delaney follower also follows more than six other Democratic candidates.

The chart also reveals the candidate pairs who are not followed together. Williamson appears in most of these pairs, but the combination of Sanders and Booker also sinks to the bottom; their follower overlap is about half the size of what we’d expect given their individual popularity.

Twitter is just one front on which the fight for the Democratic nomination is being waged, but it does provide some insight into how candidates are using social media and who is listening. Democrats are, after all, looking for a candidate who can beat President Trump, who redefined how we view Silicon Valley’s little blue bird.

We want to hear how you’re using this data! If you find anything interesting, please let us know. Send your projects to @guswez or @ollie.

Dhrumil Mehta and Julia Wolfe contributed research.