How to Sway Voters Online

April 28, 2018 - 5 minutes read

The hyper-concentrated world of social media provides us the potential to influence, shape, and change – in positive ways – the opinions of people. Unfortunately, many spend too much time trying to “preach to the converted.” We tend to forget that there are untold number of decent people that don’t agree with our opinions. While we may bemoan their lack of insight, intelligence, or curiosity, the reality is they are fellow humans. Usually, they feel their stances are just. If you are willing to invest some time and resources on understanding their core beliefs, you may find ways to tweak your messaging to build additional support for your candidate or cause. Like a mirror, good persuasion allows people to see themselves in your argument.

“Like a mirror, good persuasion allows people to see themselves in your argument.”

On the surface, your ultimate goal is to gain one or more votes necessary for your candidate or cause to achieve victory. Depending on where you live or the year you are running, that may be exceedingly easy or nearly impossible, However, even in this partisan political environment, you see people who win regardless of geographical or demographic barriers. The electorate supports them because the winning campaign continues to build trust, address constituent concerns, and show results. In the 2018 mid-term elections, there are numerous opportunities for progressive candidates to be elected in areas previously hostile to their politics; but those that best beat the odds will rely on more than just wave politics.

“In the 2018 mid-term elections, there are numerous opportunities for progressive candidates to be elected in areas previously hostile to their politics; but those that best beat the odds will rely on more than just wave politics.”

Persuading voters online involves many things; however, what it does not involve is intramural battles on social media. A recent study reported in Salon suggests aggressive persuasion efforts may actually increase polarization. Therefore, while it may be tempting to engage in such tactics, your efforts can make your candidate or cause less desirable to support. More importantly, it could encourage them to seek out your opponents.

However, it is still vitally important to use social media to transmit your broad messaging, as it can function as a vital aid to your phone-banking and text-messaging efforts. For example, say you want to A/B test two variations of a message about your cause on Facebook (i.e. “paid family leave is the right thing to do,” vs. “paid family leave makes business sense.”). As the campaign manager or field organizer, you want to find the message that best reflects what the voters in your district feel as important. Tracking likes let you align your future phone and text messages with messaging that strikes a chord with the voter psyche. In addition, the demographic information that comes from likes and views will be invaluable as you determine which demographics to target with similar messages.

You have core beliefs – or, for many causes, one core belief – that is non-negotiable. However, how you describe yourself or the issue provides numerous opportunities for persuasion. For example, if you are trying to promote solar in a conservative area, messages about carbon footprints and climate change will likely not reflect the population’s stance. Instead, making your main points about cost-savings and increased home values may better persuade voters. Use this information throughout your social media: those that support you for environmental reasons will understand why you are doing this.

However, back to an earlier point: if you are elected, you need to build trust to remain in office or to be successful with future initiatives. Assuming it passed, if your solar initiative promises higher home costs and financial benefits, you would use social media to present stories of how this has been achieved. A convert to your cause willing to speak on your behalf is particularly effective, as it shows your supporters the effectiveness of your campaign while continuing to build trust among those not naturally allied with you.

In closing, leave the “Twitter wars” to the amateurs. Using social media in a proactive, data-driven way is a pro move that allows you to maintain credibility, target supporters, and build on campaign efforts long after the election.

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