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Politics, Chamber Work and Social Media

By Mike Schlossberg

Winter 2015

Are you tired of hearing that your chamber simply must participate in social media? Probably. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but honestly, that’s too bad, because your chamber really does need to participate, and Facebook alone isn’t enough anymore.

It seems like new networks pop up every other day. MySpace started the social media revolution more than a decade ago, but social media quickly expanded to different fronts: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, Vine, Snapchat, and on and on.

From a chamber perspective, the question is: How can you use social media to serve your members and increase your bottom line? There is no shortage of answers, but a new survey from the Pew Research Internet Project provides some important insights.

The survey deals with political campaigns, and the results are nothing short of astounding in terms of the exponential growth in social media and the use of mobile devices by the politically involved. Among the key findings:

• During the past election, 28 percent of voters used cell phones to track political news, compared to 13 percent in 2010.

• These behaviors occurred among voters of all ages, but the growth was greatest among those aged 30-49; 40 percent of that age group used their cell phones for political news consumption, compared to 15 percent in 2010.

• If someone used social media or their phone to track politics, they were more likely to have higher levels of other campaign engagement, including voting, volunteering and donating. Social media use is soaring. The question is: What works, and what doesn’t?

It’s not about the numbers

One week before the election, I compared the Facebook and Twitter presence that each candidate had in six of the closest Senate races.The obvious conclusion is that numbers aren’t everything. In three of six races, the person with more Facebook fans lost; the same result applies to Twitter in four of six campaigns. The person with the largest numbers doesn’t always win, and that’s an important lesson for your chamber: content is far more important than raw numbers.

Engagement

As noted, the Pew results showed that those who followed elected officials on social media were more likely to be engaged in campaigns and more likely to vote, donate or volunteer their time. There is an easy lesson for chambers here: use your social media to build engagement, not just to raise awareness. Gear your content around that concept. For example, don’t just discuss the impact that a particular council is having; talk about things that the council does and how it needs your help. Don’t discuss what a success an event is; try to build attendance for the next one. The key is that every piece of content should give members something they can do, something actionable. Furthermore, have specific calls to action using words that will gather attention: “You” “Must-Attend” and “Money-Saving” are great examples.

Exclusivity

According to the Pew report, 41 percent of people said they follow elected officials on social media because they want to be the “first to know” something, and even more Republicans and Republican-leaning voters cited this rationale than Democrats.The point here is that you should reward your social media followers by giving them “exclusive” information. Make announcements about events, staff changes and policy via social media, and make sure to tell your followers that they are the first to know.

Want the young? Go where they are

“Not your father’s chamber” is a common phrase in today’s chamber world, and it should be. Chambers can no longer be dominated by older white males and expect to grow. Want the young? Want minorities? You have to be active where they are—social media—and it’s more than just Facebook: 28 percent of Instagram users are between 18-24; a majority of Twitter users are under 49; 11 percent of all millennials have Vine, and 29 percent of Tumblr’s overall audience is minority.

Be everywhere via mobile

At the beginning of 2014, a revolutionary change became official: a majority of Americans use mobile devices, rather than computers, to access the internet. This has an extreme impact on chambers and their digital strategies, as the shift to mobile internet access places a new premium on the ease with which a website can be accessed. Some key questions: • Is your website mobile friendly? • If someone is reviewing your website via their mobile device, how easy is it for them to join? To RSVP to events? To check out member benefits? • If someone wants to call or email, is your contact information easily accessible? How easy is it for someone to go from your mobile website to your social media?

Implications for Chambers

Politics and chambers have more in common than you may want to believe. Both thrive on personal relationships, engaged donors and volunteers. Both, at their finest, are dedicated to service, and both need approval of select constituencies to be successful. More to the point, both chambers and governments can be easily overwhelmed by the speed of innovation in the digital era. Conclusions that can be drawn about the use of social media in politics also apply to chambers. Social media is not an option! It’s a necessity, because chambers that fail to adapt may find themselves on the sidelines, just like politicians who have lost an election.

Mike Schlossberg is a Pennsylvania State Representative and a former vice president with the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce. He is also a social media consultant (www.mikeschlossbergsocialmedia. com) and author of Tweets and Consequences: 60 Social Media Disasters in Politics and How You Can Avert a Career-Ending Mistake.

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