Eighty-three years ago, FDR went to the nation’s radio waves—then revolutionary technology—to speak directly to Americans; calming them following the stock market crash in 1929. FDR’s “fireside chats” are now legendary, and yet we forget to remember how innovative they were. One could argue that FDR’s physical limitations forced him to develop the rhetorical genius perfectly suited to a radio era.
Fifty-six years ago, presidential hopefuls Nixon and Kennedy took the stage in the nation’s first televised debate. Nixon, the veteran lawmaker, went up against Kennedy, the young and relatively unknown newcomer. The handsome, tanned Kennedy appeared more than ready for his close-up, but Nixon looked haggard, sweaty and pale—the result of a recent hospital stay and a lack of make-up. This debate is a now-famous discrepency: those who listened to the debates on the radio felt Nixon had won; those who saw Nixon contrasted with Kennedy’s healthy glow on TV counted Kennedy as the undeniable winner.
Fast forward to 2008, where Barack Obama led the first truly social presidential campaign: Obama won nearly 70 percent of the Facebook generation (millenials under 25)—a number unmatched since exit polling began in 1976.
These winning strategies look obvious in hindsight, but in their time, each of these innovators were criticized, misunderstood and underestimated. Which brings us to 2016: having an inept social media strategy is no longer an option—John McCain may have been the last presidential candidate to shy away from a social presence.
So now that social is a given, what lessons can we learn from the candidates we’re watching closely over the next few weeks?
Choose the right platform.
With over 9 million followers, Donald Trump shines on Twitter. Why? Because it’s the platform that best captures his authentic self. He dominates with tweets that deliver his critics “stingers” in less than 140 characters.
On the other side, Hillary Clinton uses Facebook chat to discuss a variety of subjects, such as the “Black Lives Matter” movement. Reporters and followers have the option to engage one-on-one with Clinton, even if it isn’t face-to-face.
The lesson? Every social media platform has it’s place in the marketing mix. It’s better to choose the right platform, rather than attempting to dominate every single one.
Authenticity is key on social media more than anywhere else.
Social media is inherently personal and usually only semi-scripted. Each platform demands its own unique voice and message. Take, for example, Hillary Clinton’s very first SnapChat. People would’ve balked if she chose to focus on production value, or even substantive content, so she wisely made a simple joke.
You may remember the “Delete Your Account” Twitter frenzy in June, where Clinton’s arguably brilliant response to one of Trump’s more famous tweets, is directly tied to the platform. This response on Facebook would fail immediately, but succeeded on Twitter because of it’s brevity.
Controversy draws attention.
Twitter is a natural home for controversy, and throughout this campaign we’ve seen Donald Trump leave his mark. Much has already been said and intelligently argued about The Donald’s skill in social media across platforms, but he shines on Twitter. The truth? No matter your position, the controversy Trump draws commands attention in equal measure.
For brands, the goal differs slightly. While Trump thrives on the controversy, most brands refrain from walking headfirst into the masses of “haters”. However, there’s another lesson to learn from his bravado—when controversy does arise, marketers can help brands have an opinion and take a stand.
As this election nears the end, focusing on the lessons behind both candidates’ social media strategies may provide some relief from the ‘shock’ factor we’re all feeling these days. No matter which candidate you support, there’s some smart people behind the scenes running the show and capturing their target audience all the way to the end.