Guide to getting started on social media

Election candidates should be prepared to engage with voters, have conversations about why they are standing and be able to talk about the issues that matter. This guide gives you tips on how to kickstart your social media election campaign and is pitched at anyone who is new to using social media sites.

Why use social media?

  • It offers a great opportunity to connect with voters.
  • It can be a very effective way to get your manifesto seen by many Islanders without having to spend money.
  • It is a good option for promoting yourself during the campaign period regardless of any Covid restrictions that could be in place.
  • From a practical point of view, it means you have the potential to communicate your manifesto without having to physically get around your constituency.
  • If in-person campaigning is an option for you, then using social media allows you to follow up with people after meeting them.

 

What do I need to use social media?

You don’t need lots of special kit to use social media. If you have access to a smart phone or a computer you can get started. The important part is planning what you want to say and how you’re going to say it. Depending on which platform(s) you choose to use, you will need to either sign up to create an account, or download the app to your mobile device.

What does it cost?

It is free to use most social media sites, but you can choose to pay for options that will get your content seen by more people. You need to decide whether you want to spend money on promoting any social media posts or stick to what’s available for free. Remember that election candidates must declare how much money they have spent on their campaigns, so keep a record of your election expenses and be ready to declare this soon after the election. Contact the States Greffe for more details about election expenses if you have any questions.

How do you want to communicate with voters?

It’s a good idea to try different ways of communicating your campaign message with voters. Try a combination of written information, videos or audio recordings, and images, to make your social media posts accessible to the wide range of people that make up the voting public. Remember that Jersey voters are 16 years old and upwards, that English might be a second language for many, and that people tend to watch social media videos that are captioned for much longer than those without captions.

If you’d prefer to speak your message, try videoing yourself. You can share video content on most social media platforms, in fact, some are only for video. Some platforms might have a limit on the length of the video, so it’s a good idea to check for limitations before you start.

If you prefer writing, you might want to post your thoughts on a Facebook page, or in a LinkedIn post. Be prepared to answer any questions that your followers might ask after reading your post. Think of social media as a conversation starter – anything you post is likely to get some sort of reaction, and people will expect you to respond!

There might be some occasions when all you need is an image to show an issue that matters to you. Instagram or Twitter are good options for this, because you can quickly share a photo with a short caption, or question to start a conversation with your network.

Where to begin?

  1. Begin by checking what’s already out there about you. Search for your own name and location on the internet using a few different search engines. Even if you do not use social media, it is likely that there will be information about you available on different websites, and having some awareness of this is a good starting point. This also applies to other member-only sites that you might use.
  2. Decide which social media platform to use to communicate your manifesto and election campaign messages. Bear in mind that it might be easier to start with one platform and focus on that one before learning to use any more.
  3. Different social media platforms have different benefits, so it’s important to think about who you want to engage with, what you want to say and how you’d like to say it. Read below for more information about the different platforms to help you get started.
  4. Plan when you are going to start using your social media account to start telling people about your election campaign. Think about creating posts in advance to make sure you have time to cover everything you want to say before election day.
  5. Read about the account settings for your chosen social media platform. Be sure that you understand what is private and what is not, to avoid sharing the wrong thing by mistake.
  6. If you are building a network of followers on your chosen platform, think about how well you might know the people behind those accounts. It’s likely that you won’t know many of them, so keep this in mind before sharing information. You might find it helpful to list the topics that you want to talk about on social media and stick within those boundaries.
  7. Remember the importance of checking content before you post it. You want to avoid making mistakes and only share what is relevant to promoting your election campaign. It is easy for someone else to take a screenshot (a picture taken of the content displayed on a computer or mobile device) of a ‘bad’ post and then share it with others even after it has been deleted.

Which platform? Some suggestions:

Each social media platform has its own benefits. If this is completely new to you, it is a good idea to choose one platform to start with and get used to using it before trying others. One of the key things to think about is who uses the platform and whether that fits in with any particular group that you might want to target to encourage them to vote for you. Facebook is widely used by many Islanders and could be a good starting point. Instagram and Twitter are also popular and great for sharing brief messages and images or short video content. LinkedIn is a great place if you want to connect with people on a professional basis. If you want to share video content it is worth looking at YouTube, as well as TikTok and Snapchat, which are both known for being popular with teens and young adults.

Facebook

Facebook has a large community of Jersey-based accounts, so it’s worth having a look to see whether you think it’s the right place for your election campaign. There are lots of possibilities available on Facebook – you can set up your own page to host all your campaign and manifesto information and you can post videos and photos. It’s also possible to hold live events which might be a good alternative (or addition) to knocking on doors to get voter support.

  • You can access more information on how to make a start with Facebook as a political candidate here.
  • There are lots of tools, tips and tricks for connecting with people on Facebook and Instagram here.

Instagram – Instagram is all about the images and video content that you upload. You can quickly share a photo or short video and ask followers for feedback and opinions. Like Facebook, it’s possible to broadcast live to your followers, which could be a really engaging way to share your views ahead of the election. Instagram offers a range of resources and best practice guides for civic engagement here.

Twitter – Twitter is primarily a micro-blogging platform. Each Tweet is limited to 280 characters, so it’s best to save Twitter for conversations and brief messages. If you have lots of detail to say to your Twitter followers you can string several Tweets together in a ‘thread’, but generally people keep it brief and to the point on Twitter. It’s possible to Tweet short videos too, so you don’t have to stick to writing. Find out more about how to get started on Twitter here.

LinkedIn – LinkedIn is a platform for connecting with the professional community. It is a great way to show the electorate your work and education credentials, which could help demonstrate where you have knowledge and experience that would transfer well to the role of an effective States member. Recent figures show that there are over 43,000 LinkedIn users in Jersey, with 27,000 of these in the 25-34 year old age bracket. Learn how to create a LinkedIn profile here

TikTok – If you are keen to make short videos with the potential to appeal to a younger audience, TikTok might be the best platform to try. Videos on TikTok can be up to 3 minutes long, so keep it brief. For more information on where to begin as a TikTok creator, take a look here.

Snapchat – Snapchat is another option for short videos or visual content. Although Snapchat was originally set up to chat with close friends, it is now possible to have a public account that can be viewed by anyone. If you create an account as a ‘public profile’ you can have people subscribe to the content you post. Learn how to set up a Snapchat profile here.

YouTube – You could use YouTube to broadcast your campaign messages to Islanders. You need to set up your own channel to be able to upload video content. The videos that you upload to YouTube can be shared on other social media platforms. You can make your videos more accessible by using automatic captions which are available in several languages. It’s also possible to run live broadcasts which means you could have a Q&A session or virtual meeting with voters to talk about the issues that have inspired you to stand for election. Click here to watch a short video showing you how to get started on YouTube.

Dealing with negativity and trolls

Whichever social media platform you decide to use, it is essential that you look at the guidance given by that platform about privacy and online safety. Nobody wants to be the subject of bullying or abuse, so it is important to understand what you can do to stay safe online.

Conversations on social media can attract debate which can lead to disagreement. This is especially true for political conversations. In these situations there are a few options available to you:

  • It might be possible to diffuse a situation by offering a clear and factual response – especially if someone is disputing something that you have posted. Once you have done this, it can also sometimes be helpful to message someone privately, away from the public conversation.
  • If a conversation becomes aggressive or abusive you should be prepared to step away from it. If another account is abusive towards you, remember that you can block and report them to the platform.
  • If you receive messages that are threatening or discriminatory you should report them to the social media platform and contact the police.

The angry or negative voices on social media can appear to dominate, but remember that they are in the minority. There are thousands of others who may be seeing your posts who are quietly paying attention and listening to you.

What next?

Once you are comfortable using one social media platform you might find it helpful to explore another. As mentioned before, they each have different benefits and difference audiences, so remember that your message could be seen by more people if you expand your online presence.

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