Twitter on the Campaign Trail

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With the second GOP debate behind us, it's safe to say campaign season has arrived! Town Hall events in keys states, such as New Hampshire and South Carolina, clog journalists' travel calendars and provide excitement for voters. As the candidates lay out a vision for their presidency, I'm reminded of the power of community and open communication - both factors in these highly publicized events.

Candidates use Town Halls to speak on specific policy issues. They hear first-hand from voters in the audience, answer hard questions and get to show a bit of their personality. While duplicating these events city by city may not make sense for your advocacy campaign, emulating them online - specifically, on Twitter - certainly could!

Down to the nitty gritty. So, how does a Twitter Town Hall work exactly? Simply put, it allows users to create a public gathering at a specified time. People can ask questions and gather information, typically regarding identified topics. For example, after Massachusetts public transit received backlash over ridership and budget cuts, the MBTA answered questions during a lunch hour Twitter Town Hall about #latenightservice.

Follow the yellow brick road. How do you organize such an awesome event online? You can find plenty of how-to resources out there to help you, but the most important detail is a great hashtag. The hashtag guides users to the event, keeps them engaged and creates a history that they can refer back to. Pick something that's relevant, short, easy to understand, and hasn't been used before. Brace yourself for spam or negative commentary that may come through on your hashtag feed, too - especially if you host a large scale event.

Did that increase my Klout score? Am I the only one who gets excited about getting retweeted by a celebrity? I didn't think so. Whether you have a big or small advocacy campaign, your followers probably think highly of your spokesperson. Any opportunity to interact with a real person who works towards a familiar goal could result in increased engagement and drive.

Don't worry, I've got this. It's pretty simple - success starts with knowing what you're doing. David Axelrod, campaign strategist for President Barack Obama, understood this when he decided to host a Twitter Town Hall after Obama's economic speech in Ohio back in June 2012. Many candidates have tried their own variations of this, but Axelrod's was the most effective to date - largely due to his execution. He created a controlled venue, retweeted the questions he was answering, and made all of the replies public. Details such as these remain extremely important, even three years later. Think before you tweet!

Want to learn more about digital tools that can help amplify your advocacy efforts? The Digital Advocacy Institute has weekly blogs and ample resources to bring your advocacy to the next level. Join here.