How can a presidential candidate shape the national conversation in real time to influence voters leading up to an election?
Elections may be zero sum games, but digital efforts are not. @MittRomney’s social strategy was at the forefront of Twitter innovation in 2012 – one that should serve as a blueprint for political and corporate campaigns in 2013 and beyond. Twitter recently released a case study on the Mitt Romney Campaign’s successful use of Twitter to drive dialogue, mobilize supporters, and shift voter attitudes throughout the race. The Campaign’s principle goal was to build an active and engaged online community. To achieve this goal they adopted an all-encompassing social plan, cross-promoting content on multiple social platforms. On Twitter, advertising, real-time response, and target audiences increased engagement rates and likelihood to vote for the candidate. In another study, SocialBakers chronicled how the Campaign was able to use additional platforms to accomplish these same goals. There were four main points of focus with @MittRomney’s Twitter strategy: seeding the conversation, real-time response, integration with additional platforms like TV, and targeting.
Read Twitter’s case study below or on Twitter Business.
In June of 2011, Mitt Romney (@MittRomney), the former Governor of Massachusetts, launched his second candidacy for the presidency of the United States. In August of the following year, Romney chose Paul Ryan (@PRyan), the U.S. Congressman for Wisconsin’s 1st congressional district, as his running mate and formally accepted the Republican Party’s nomination at the 2012 Republican National Convention.
Romney for President, Inc. needed to mold public perception around the 2012 presidential race, expand the reach of his core campaign messages and respond quickly to detractors. Specifically, the @MittRomney team wanted to help form and fortify the opinions of influencers like news media, who are instrumental in shaping voter perceptions during elections. In a two-screen environment, the @MittRomney campaign also needed to enhance the viewing experience for Americans during critical televised moments of the race to steer the election dialogue as well as influence attitudes.
The @MittRomney campaign made a strategic decision to use Twitter to create a platform that would serve as the candidate’s online voice. It was important to share content on Twitter using a first person narrative with the @MittRomney account while setting up other Twitter accounts for additional messaging. Each Tweet was delivered as an extension of the candidate’s messaging on domestic and foreign policy, and the platform served as a digital soapbox. Twitter was also used as a means of communicating responses to the Obama campaign, major campaign slogans/calls to action, appeals for grassroots fundraising and volunteers.
There were four main points of focus with @MittRomney’s Twitter strategy: seeding the conversation, real-time response, integration with additional platforms like TV and targeting.
Seeding the conversation
Hashtags are one of the most important and unique aspects of Twitter, providing a common forum for users to discuss a topic by including a hashtag in their Tweets. To spark conversations, drive the campaign’s messaging and increase reach, @MittRomney ran three Promoted Trends in 2012 using the hashtags #BelieveInAmerica, #RomneyRyan2012 and #CantAfford4More.
Each Promoted Trend was aligned with popular televised events – the Republican National Convention (RNC) and two presidential debates – and provided @MittRomney with the single best way to control the narrative of each campaign milestone.
To extend reach and build momentum, the campaign used Promoted Accounts across five Romney related Twitter accounts: @MittRomney, @PaulRyanVP, @AnnDRomney, @TeamRomney and @RomneyResponse. During key televised events, the campaign used Promoted Tweets in timelines and in search from @TeamRomney and @RomneyResponse for aggressive real-time responses to the Obama campaign that could not come from @MittRomney directly.
These Promoted Tweets shared quotes and key messages to help frame the Twitter conversation around the RNC and debates as well as drive influencers to learn more on rapid-response microsites (romneyresponse.tumblr.com and debates.mittromney.com). With Twitter Ads, @MittRomney was able to steer conversations in real time and keep momentum building well after the events were over.
During the second televised debate, a unique opportunity arose when President Barack Obama (@BarackObama) countered @MittRomney’s comment that the U.S. Navy is now smaller than anytime since the early 20th century by saying, “Well, Governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets, because the nature of our military’s changed.”
Debate viewers quickly turned to Twitter to discuss the quippy TV exchange and within minutes ‘horses and bayonets’ began trending. The @MittRomney campaign acted quickly and white-listed the handle of influential allies like Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell (@BobMcDonnell) to be able to promote Retweets of their responses. @MittRomney targeted Promoted Tweets in search to extend the reach of these pro-Romney Tweets and shape the dialogue in real time.
Twitter helped turn many similar critiques and negative attacks against @MittRomney into positives. When Democratic National Committee consultant Hilary Rosen said on CNN that Ann Romney had “never worked a day in her life, ” the Romney team again mobilized. Instead of issuing a press release, they launched the @AnnDRomney Twitter account, creating a platform to respond to the remarks in Mrs. Romney’s own voice and in an immediate way. Those Tweets were well received and helped shape public opinion about the candidate and his family.
Integration with additional platforms
To extend their reach, the @MittRomney campaign also tweeted in real time during the 60 Minutes interview with Governor Romney and Congressman Ryan. These Tweets were sent at the start of the interview, allowing the campaign to control the Twitter conversation from the beginning. @MittRomney used keyword optimization to target Promoted Tweets to conservatives, users interested in the election and 60 Minutes viewers.
Targeting was the most important tool @MittRomney had on Twitter. While each targeting tool that Twitter offers was useful on its own, the best strategy for targeting was to combine multiple types in one campaign. Multiple keyword/hashtag groups were created to target specific audiences including conservatives, independents and debate watchers. @MittRomney also targeted Promoted Tweets by gender, device (desktop, mobile, etc.), geo (battleground states, etc.), interests (politics, women’s interests, etc.) and handles (journalists, news sources, etc.) to reach influential users and their followers.
On Election Day, the Romney campaign posted “dark Tweets” containing state specific content for each battleground state. These Tweets were then turned into ads using a three-fold targeting strategy. Lists of state specific media sources were uploaded to each Promoted Tweet, layered with conservative political interest targeting, and geo targeted to the appropriate states. This allowed @MittRomney to reach civically engaged voters on Twitter, an integral aspect of the overall “Get Out The Vote” efforts on Election Day.
“Twitter is the ultimate real-time engagement vehicle. It was invaluable when we wanted to frame out a specific narrative during an event or announcement. There was no better way to get our viewpoint out there. Plus, with Twitter Ads, we were able to target the right type of Tweet to the right user. The paid layer over the organic Tweets performed like lightning in a bottle and sparked a massive amount of conversation.”
Zac Moffatt Partner at Targeted Victory
When Paul Ryan was announced as the Vice Presidential candidate, the @MittRomney campaign launched the @PaulRyanVP account and used Promoted Tweets in timelines and in search to build excitement as well as shape the narrative around the announcement. One of these Promoted Tweets generated a 21.9% engagement rate – more than seven times the average engagement rate on a Promoted Tweet.
With Twitter, the @MittRomney team increased engagement, site traffic and reach of the campaign’s overall real-time response efforts across the Internet. @MittRomney was able to generate massive conversation on the three Promoted Trend days: a total 303,900 Tweets were sent that used the Promoted Trend hashtags. The average engagement rates across all three trends was 15.45% – more than five times the average engagement rate for a Promoted Trend. Promoted Tweets saw engagement rates as high as 22% and averaged a 6% engagement rate.
A brand survey conducted by Nielsen showed that @MittRomney Twitter Ads increased likelihood to vote for @MittRomney by 20%. The survey ran during the October 16th presidential debate when the Romney campaign targeted a jobs & economy-related message to Twitter users in political target states like Ohio, Florida and Virginia.
Since January 1, 2012, Twitter followers for @MittRomney grew by more than 500% with one fifth of this new follower growth resulting from Promoted Account campaigns. There were also significant increases in new followers after each Promoted Trend: a total of 136,400 followers over the course of the three trend days. Overall, the @MittRomney campaign drove a total of 25.1 million paid media impressions and generated over 33 million earned media impressions through Retweets.
4 keys to success
The @MittRomney campaign used Twitter to monitor sentiment, gain insights into key election issues and create real-time responses that were timely and relevant. “The fragmentation of the media landscape has weakened the traditional path from advertising to attitude change – it is now a much more organic process,” says Zac Moffat, Partner at Targeted Victory. “Ads are ‘released into the wild’ in an attempt to start a conversation, first on Twitter, that then captures the attention of the press. The message then gets into mainstream media coverage and shows up later in the form of public opinion shift.”
Integrate with TV.
Eighty percent of television viewers use another device while watching TV. By integrating Tweets with what was happening on television, the @MittRomney campaign was able to reach constituents across devices and create a truly “two-screen” campaign. Promoted Tweets had strong call to actions to download mobile apps and visit campaign websites, which resulted in high engagement and increased traffic to that content.
Connect with relevant audiences.
@MittRomney used a combination of targeting options in individual Twitter Ad campaigns to deliver the right Tweets to the right audience at the right time and generate double-digit engagement. The @MittRomney team targeted Promoted Tweets by gender, device, geo, interests and handles to reach influential users and their followers.
Share rich media.
By embedding videos, TV ads, links and images in Tweets, the @MittRomney campaign was able to create strong engagement on Twitter and drive earned media via Retweets. Infographics are particularly engaging on Twitter and the Promoted Tweet below had an 18% engagement rate.