Social Media and Political Engagement

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The use of social media is becoming a feature of political and civic engagement for many Americans. Some 60% of American adults use either social networking sites like Facebook or Twitter and a new survey by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project finds that 66% of those social media users—or 39% of all American adults—have done at least one of eight civic or political activities with social media.

Overall, there are mixed partisan and ideological patterns among social media users when it comes to using social media like social networking sites and Twitter. The social media users who talk about politics on a regular basis are the most likely to use social media for civic or political purposes. And the social media users who have firmer party and ideological ties—liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans—are, at times, more likely than moderates in both parties to use social media for these purposes.

Some of these activities are more likely to be pursued by younger social media users compared with the social media users who are ages 50 or older. Younger users are more likely to post their own thoughts about issues, post links to political material, encourage others to take political action, belong to a political group on a social networking site, follow elected officials on social media, and like or promote political material others have posted.

Here are the key findings in a recent nationally representative survey:

  • 38% of those who use social networking sites (SNS) or Twitter use those social media to “like” or promote material related to politics or social issues that others have posted. Liberal Democrats who use social media are particularly likely to use the ‘like’ button—52% of them have done so and 42% of conservative Republicans have also done so.
  • 35% of social media users have used the tools to encourage people to vote. Democrats who are social media users are more likely to have used social media to encourage voting—42% have done that compared with 36% of Republican social-media users and 31% of independents.
  • 34% of social media users have used the tools to post their own thoughts or comments on political and social issues. Liberal Democrats who use social media (42%) and conservative Republicans (41%) are especially likely to use social media this way.
  • 33% of social media users have used the tools to repost content related to political or social issues that was originally posted by someone else.  Republican social media users are more likely to do this on social media—39% have used social media to repost content, compared with 34% of social media using Democrats and 31% of independents.
  • 31% of social media users have used the tools to encourage other people to take action on a political or social issue that is important to them. Some 36% of social-media-using Democrats have done this as have 34% of Republicans. This compares to 29% of independents who are social media users.
  • 28% of social media users have used the tools to post links to political stories or articles for others to read. The social media users who are liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans are the most likely to have used social media this way (39% and 34% respectively).
  • 21% of those who use SNS or Twitter belong to a group on a social networking site that is involved in political or social issues, or that is working to advance a cause. There are no major differences by ideology or partisanship when it comes to using social media this way.
  • 20% of social media users have used the tools to follow elected officials and candidates for office.  Some 32% of the conservative Republicans who use social media follow officials on social media and 27% of liberal Democrats who use social media do so.

11 signs your small business social media strategy isn’t working

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Today, small business owners are busier than ever trying to run their companies while handling marketing and sales, too. An important part of marketing today is social media. For many small business owners, the world of social media is still foreign territory, and finding the perfect strategy that actually works can often be difficult.

So how do you know if what you’re doing is really hitting the mark? Here are 11 signs that your small business strategy isn’t working. If you’re doing any of the things on this list, chances are your strategy is falling flat and you’re missing prime opportunities to use social media to engage, inform and promote.

1. You delete negative posts.

Negative posts about your brand can be shocking, scary and hurtful. One of the key mistakes small business owners make is taking negative comments personally. Most often when you see a negative post about your brand, the person posting isn’t talking about you. They’re talking about your product or service. Instead of hitting the delete button when you see something negative, think of it as an opportunity to engage. But make sure that you directly address the negativity head-on. Don’t try to sugarcoat your response.

For example, if you own a delivery service and a customer makes a negative comment about your company because their package was late, don’t panic. Instead, let the person know that you will direct message (DM) them with a response and take care of the issue. Once the issue is resolved, go back to the original post and let your followers know you’ve handled it.

In 2011, a Harris survey looked at customers who posted negative reviewed during the Christmas season. The survey found that 68 percent of customers that left negative reviews got a response from the business they were reviewing. As a result, 18 percent of them became regular customers and made additional purchases. Of the customers who received a response from their negative post, 33 percent of them actually posted something positive after and a whopping 34 percent deleted the original negative post.

So don’t ignore negative posts. Deal with them directly, and you might just turn a negative into a positive!

2. You don’t have a solid company social media policy in place.

Most small businesses don’t have a formal social media policy in place. If you’re in that boat, you really should take the time to develop one. Think of it as a road map to helping your promote your brand better on social media. If you define procedures and protocols upfront for how often you’ll post, who will maintain the accounts and how you will handle negative posts, it makes it a lot easier to run your accounts and spring into action quickly when something goes wrong.

3. You’re on autopilot.

Most social media platforms have an automated message feature, but it doesn’t mean you have to use it. When many social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook were first introduced to the public, the automated message feature seemed like a convenient way to thank people who followed you. Today, automated messages are widely considered annoying and impersonal. Instead of sending the same message to every new follower, take the time to send personalized thanks when you can.

Remember, you don’t have to thank every follower, but it’s a good idea to thank those that stand out. For example, if you own a restaurant and the food columnist for your local newspaper starts following you, you may want to reach out directly to establish an ongoing dialogue rather than letting an automated message do it for you.

4. You’re not tracking what others say about your brand.

Many small business owners make the mistake of thinking that consumers only post about them on their brand page. In reality, consumers post about brands everywhere — Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and review sites, to name a few. While it’s a great idea to monitor your own social media accounts to see what people are saying about you, it’s an even better idea move to using a social mention tracking tool to find out what people are posting about your brand around the Internet.

Social Mention is a great free tool for doing this. Visit http://SocialMention.com to check it out.

5. Your updates are sporadic.

If you’re not updating your social media pages on a regular basis, you’re missing out. You don’t have to post multiple times a day, but you should at least make a few posts a week to keep your followers, who are essentially your customers, engaged and excited about your brand.

6. You don’t know the difference between a reply and a mention on Twitter.

Did you know that if someone posts something on Twitter and you start your response with @, you’re limiting the number of people who are going to see the reply? For example, if @customerx posted something about @xyzbusiness and that company starts their reply with @customerx, it will only be seen by the customer and the business. That’s a reply. To make sure it’s seen by all of your followers, add a period in front of it like this — .@customerx — to make it a mention.

7. You overuse hashtags in your posts.

Not every word in your post needs to have a hashtag. In fact, hashtagging every word is going to make your post harder to read. Instead, use hashtags sparingly. Try not to use more than three per post.

8. You don’t proofread your posts.

Grammatical errors make your posts hard to read and reflect poorly on your brand. Proofread everything you write before you post it.

9. You only share things related to your brand.

This is a cardinal sin of social media. Remember that your purpose is to engage and get to know your customers. Your brand isn’t the only one they follow, and it’s certainly not the only thing that is of interest to them. Be sure to spend some time browsing your customers’ page, find out what things they like and leave positive comments. This is an excellent way to foster lasting relationships with your customers online. It also shows your customers that you are interested in them, too.

10. You make it hard to retweet your content.

It’s a fact that Twitter gives you 140 characters to post, but it doesn’t mean you have to use all of them. In fact, you should leave about 20 or so characters that can be used by others who retweet your content for the “RT @customerx” that will automatically be part of the retweet. This makes it easier for people to share your content quickly with no hassles.

11. You don’t retweet your followers’ content.

While you definitely want to make it easy for others to retweet your content, you also have to spend some time doing a little retweeting yourself. Find content from your followers that you find interesting and take a minute or two to retweet it. Remember social media is a two-way street and engagement is the key to success.

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