In a time when everyone from established business owners to budding entrepreneurs must rethink their business models to keep up with the social media wave, it’s become apparent that politicians are not exempt from the changing times.
For proof, look no further than 29-year-old Christian Ziegler, who was recently elected as Sarasota’s state committeeman in the primary election. The young Republican candidate, who was running against more established politicians, attributes much of his success to his utilization of social-networking platforms.
Operating his campaign on a $1,000 budget, which he says he raised and spent exclusively online, Ziegler used email marketing, as well as sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Nationbuilder, to reach a large audience with the touch of a button.
“(Social media) is huge,” said Ziegler. “I think that’s why I won. I can directly communicate with voters from anywhere. I can reach people on their couch or on a park bench, and they can watch a video or read an article on their own time. I can reach the person who wouldn’t come out to a Town Hall meeting.”
In addition to these tactics, Ziegler says he is one of the first people to take advantage of text-message marketing. Subscribers to his website who opted to include their phone number received a text-message alert the morning the polls opened reminding them to vote. Ziegler says the responses to the texts were largely positive from all demographics.
“The myth that social networking won’t work in Sarasota because we have an older population is completely false,” said Ziegler. “Last year, the 55-and-older age bracket was the fastest-growing demographic on Facebook.”
Simply using social networking platforms isn’t enough, said Ziegler. In order to be effective, he said it’s important to engage the audience in a conversation and make the experience interactive.
“It’s more of a conversation than it is a speech from one person to another,” he said. “I would post questions on Facebook, and if people disagreed with my post or had questions, I could immediately post a video response with my position.”
Now that the campaign is over, Ziegler says he’ll continue to use these platforms to keep the public updated on current issues. He’s currently assisting in social media coverage at the Republican National Convention in Tampa.
“If you don’t grasp social media, you’re at a significant disadvantage when you’re campaigning,” he said. “And, I think you are doing the public an injustice if you aren’t engaging with the people. An open government is better for democracy and the entire country.”