This article explains why social media a vital part of any campaign strategy is, what channels are most used by Green campaigners and how to use these social media channels most effectively.
Nowadays, no political campaign is complete without prominent visibility on social media platforms. Green parties all over Europe have been dependent on their social media strategy for recent campaign successes. There are certain tactics you can implement in order to maximise the growth of your following and interactions online. Each platform has its own approach, but a lot of the fundamentals are quite similar.
In recent years, it has become increasingly important to adapt to new ways of reaching your electorate, and social media is now a vital part of every political campaign. Various social networks, like Facebook, have quickly taken over the role of traditional media in informing and activating the public. But current trends in some markets show that even Facebook is losing ground to ‘newer’ networks like Instagram, especially among a younger audience. The key is in strategic adaptations to these trends on different platforms.
Each social media platform has its own functionalities, and tricks on how to use it most effectively. If you make efforts to carefully strategise for each platform, the potential reach and therefore impact are enormous. You can reach a very large and specific audience and you can utilise different methods to go viral and ‘break through' the algorithm.
The sections below will guide you through the most important platforms, and the ways in which you can use them most effectively for your campaign.
In this section, you can find the most relevant social media platforms for Green campaigns, and respective tactics which you can use for your own campaign.
Facebook has become one of the most important ways to build and interact with your following. There are all kinds of useful functionalities that you can apply to your campaign. Of course, it all starts with creating your public campaign page. From there you can start posting, engaging and advertising.
In order to grow a following on Facebook, you have to make sure you post status updates regularly and consistently. The optimal frequency is somewhere between a few times a week and once every day. To attract the attention of your (potential) audience, post about things that are topical and relevant. Besides status updates and pictures, video is one of the most effective formats on Facebook.
Make sure you actively engage with your audience. Not only because it is interesting to get to know your potential voter base more, but also because it organically increases the interaction with your content.
Groups are a very good way of keeping a specific audience engaged with your content. Private groups especially can lead to lively discussions. You can use this functionality to organise volunteers, or to build and manage an active community related to your organisation or campaign.
Using Events, you can create a lot of buzz around important moments in your campaign, like kick-off events or political meetups. Make sure you actively ask people to press ‘Going’ on your Facebook event in order to generate more publicity.
For political campaigns, Facebook advertising can be an important part of reaching a very specific audience. Facebook offers a lot of detailed options to find your ideal target group. Make sure to create a business account and to go through the verification process, including political disclaimers, long before your campaign kicks off. You don’t want to find out you have to go through a days-long process when you need your ads to be running as soon as possible. The rules for political advertsing on Facebook are constantly being updated, so make sure to keep an eye on them when planning your campaign.
In a matter of years, Instagram has become the dominant platform among an audience consisting of millennials and youth. In the USA and Western Europe, this demographic has almost entirely abandoned Facebook. Because of this development, political organisations have quickly adapted to methods used on Instagram. A significant part of the most popular methods stem from the Black Lives Matter movement, and other grassroots movements. Within a couple of years, those movements changed the way we use Instagram and other social media forever.
One of the most important and effective ways Instagram can be used, is to go viral among your audience. The only way to achieve this, is to focus on one thing: the act of sharing a timeline-post to a user’s Instagram story. It is this functionality that gives you the opportunity to actually make waves. This is why you want to focus most of the things in design, content, copy and calls to action on the shareability of your post, and on how it looks in someone’s story.
In order to achieve the shareability needed for your post to make the rounds, you should make sure that the aim of the post is visible and understandable in one glance; preferably using an eye-catching statement [example 1]. The idea you are going for should be something along the lines of a protest sign. This motivates people to share your post in their story, since sharing it is already a form of political activism due to the prominence of the statement. Even if the other slides are full of text, your first and/or last slide should have a simple, eye-catching element that’s shareable in a story.
Besides using statements, you should also try to make your content visually pleasing. A popular way Instagram is used, is to share things that align with people's own aesthetic. If you want to create a post that is as shareable as possible, you should aim to combine simple, eye-catching statements with a visually pleasing design [example 2].
A format that has gained a lot of popularity since the Black Lives Matter movement, is the Instagram explainer. Grassroots organisations and movements adopted the format very quickly, and the platform hasn’t been the same since. Currently, parties all over Europe use some form of this explainer-type content. [example 3] [example 4]
Explainers are a very effective way to show that you take your audience seriously, and to inform them on important topics that are related to your campaign or organisation. If well crafted and relevant to current affairs, they also have great viral potential. To use this most effectively, you can plan explainers that relate to important events.
Twitter is known mainly for three things: news, statements (or: press releases) and discussion. Most of this seems pretty straightforward and simple, yet there are ways in which you can use Twitter to stand out and gain a following.
First of all, the key is in focusing on personal accounts and interaction. Corporate statements, press releases and memos are more of a necessary evil than an effective tactic. In many cases, NGO-experts, journalists and politicians have more followers than the accounts of their respective organisations, and much, much more interaction. This is because Twitter is made especially for discussion and personal interaction. Good news: you can use all of the personal accounts of your candidates, or other public figures related to your campaign. And if you coordinate the activity on these accounts a bit, you can even dominate the daily discussion with a handful of accounts.
One of the most important and easiest improvements you can implement in order to get more interaction on content on Twitter, is to make sure you always share the implication of the news you are sharing. A lot of Twitter users simply share articles with a quote from the article, or worse, with just the title. In order to have people engage with your tweet, you have to explain to them what they have to feel about it. Is it groundbreaking news, or is it business as usual? And should people be scared, angry or celebrating? Always guide people towards an emotion by explaining the implication, but do so responsibly.
Amnesty International is a good example of adaptation to new ways of using social media. They take a lot of inspiration from grassroots online activism, and the results speak for themselves. Amnesty combines shareable Instagram visuals with in-depth explainers on social issues very effectively. [example 5]
The Dutch Green party, GroenLinks, also uses Instagram very strategically. They have a balanced combination of explainers, news updates with relevant captions, protest signs and screenshots of tweets – which is also an increasingly popular format. All of these things are focused on their content being shared widely in Instagram Stories.
A prominent example of the effects and strength of personal accounts on Twitter can be found in the case of MEP Terry Reintke. Terry Reintke alone has almost as many followers than the European Parliament group she represents, Greens/EFA. The main reason for this is the fact that Reintke consistently shares personal and emotional updates about her work and activism. Her timeline is filled with examples of this type of content. Besides her having way more followers than the party she represents, she also reaches much, much more engagement. Imagine the potential if all members of the Greens/EFA group were to do the same. All of this makes the potential of personal accounts so much greater than that of your single corporate account.
In general, Green parties perform strongly on social media. They have a strong positive emotional response (‘love’ emoji reaction), decent engagement (retweets, likes) and strong viewership. The relative viewership (compared to other parties within the same region) is generally first or second after the far right. Engagement (retweets, likes) is generally second after the far right, yet often by a long stretch. The far right, across the researched regions, have mastered the art of engagement based on outrage: Vlaams Belang has a 47% ‘angry’ emoji reaction rate, AfD 35%, and for FvD its 15% (data not in table).
Most social media platforms have similar fundamental tactics. The key takeaways are to focus on shareability to increase the chances of your content going viral, but also to make sure you actively interact with your (potential) audience. Besides that, there is a large role for personal accounts and engagement. Also, planning and coordination are key to gain as much following and traction as possible.
Last updated: June 2022