The SK NDP leadership race just went through a sprint to the finish for memberships. Memberships purchased prior to January 25th allowed people to vote in the leadership race. Those purchased after the deadline are not permitted to do so. I’m sure the reasons for this are good (or if they’re not, they’ll be changed), but it created an interesting dynamic in the last few weeks as all of the candidates struggled to sign up new members who would be supporters of their campaign. I’m going to talk about a few things related to this in the next few posts, but I’d like to start with how the Meili campaign was successful in social media.
In the last several months, the Meili campaign reports having signed up over 1500 party memberships through the office. Close to 500 of those were online. In the last couple of days, social media sources accounted for over 20 memberships a day. In the same period, the Facebook audience alone was built from around 1000 likes to 2400 likes with a reach in the 100s of thousands. This is a pretty good success story for a party with an original membership of under 5000 in a province of 1 million.
But the way that success was achieved was interesting. I watched all of the leadership candidates push to the end, but the reason the Meili campaign was so successful on social media was that it had already built the audience it needed. Over the course of the last several months, it had carefully identified a pool of 60 people who were prepared to promote Meili on social media. Each of these people identified audiences, such as writers or health care workers, with which they were familiar and with whom they could speak with authority. Also, judicious, low-level advertizing spending over three months, gradually built the audience on Twitter and Facebook until there was a solid base of partisan supporters who were regularly seeing posts from the campaign. Finally, endorsements from community leaders had been used to draw in specific audiences which, combined with Twitter hashtags and posts on Facebook group walls, had created a database of people to whom the campaign could reach out over individual messaging, encouraging them to sell memberships or spread the word about the deadline.
All of these factors made the last couple of weeks easy. Sure, advertizing was increased and the volunteers worked long and hard hours, but the payoff was almost assured. When the message achieved the right level of urgency, the audience was in place to assist in its broadcast.
I think this is unique to social media campaigns. In more traditional campaigns, you measure the timing of the ads based on message urgency, but too soon is wasted money. In social media, building the audience first is equally important.
It’s important to note that this does not mean that the Meili campaign has won the leadership race. Not by any means. There’s no guarantee that all of the people who signed up through the campaign are actually supporters. It’s also quite likely that the ground will shift over the next month and a half while candidates woo members. None-the-less, the work the Meili campaign did in getting these memberships is an important lesson in building social media audiences.
Note: An earlier version of this post had different estimates of the number of sign-ups generated by the campaign. In retrospect, I decided to go with the official numbers from the campaign rather than use my own estimates based on trends I had observed. Apologies.