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5 steps brands should make to navigate the 2020 election on social media

by Khoros staff | Oct 01, 2020

In this blog series, a member of the Khoros Strategic Services team dives into a topic they have helped many enterprise brands with, sharing insights and best practices. Khoros Strategic Services has deep expertise in community management, paid social, analytics, content, and they're ready to help your brand.

To say that 2020 has been a long year is a bit of an understatement — especially for social media managers. It seems like every time we wake up, roll over, carefully open one eye, check the news, and something else has happened. All we need now are the White Walkers to cap the year off in December.

But I digress…

With every curveball that’s been thrown our way, it’s hard for social marketing and strategy teams to know which way to pivot and what impact that pivot could ultimately have on our brands. The truth of the matter, and what 2020 continues to teach us, is that you can’t plan for everything. But you can be prepared.

That brings us to the 2020 elections.

In August alone, the term “2020 election” garnered more than 78K mentions on Twitter according to Khoros Intelligence, Joe Biden 1.5M mentions, and President Donald Trump 3.5M mentions. And these volumes are only going to increase as we get closer to November.

Elections can be minefields for brands on social media, and the 2020 election, is of course no different. Understanding how to engage in this conversation, if at all, requires considerable planning. This is not the time to experiment and jump into conversations because all-too-quickly, things could take a turn and the last thing you want is for your brand to be caught in the middle of it, unprepared.

Many brands have been asking us how to prepare for the elections and if there are any best practices to consider. Even though 2020 has been a year of unprecedented events, there are evergreen strategies that every brand should be considering when it comes to the elections.

1. Remember that actions speak louder than words

With more scrutiny than ever on how brands and companies are showing up for cultural or political moments, it’s imperative to have an action-backed strategy for whether, when, and how your brand will engage. Coca-Cola, for example, is giving employees the day off to vote. Others, like Ben & Jerry’s, are matching donations towards organizations that promote equitable voting. What’s important to note about these examples is that these brands are stepping up, backing their words with actions and, in the case of Ben & Jerry’s, have the credibility to do so. Today, as a brand, you can’t say something just to say something. You have to say it, mean it, and then follow through with it.

2. Use machine learning and social listening to stay up to date

Understanding conversation trends and how they’re evolving in real-time, outside of your owned channels, is essential. If you want to know how your content could be perceived, what moments to stay away from or take advantage of and what trends are gaining momentum, you need a well-thought out social listening strategy.

When you’re planning this strategy, there are several key questions to consider. Most importantly, what trends are you interested in evaluating, what hashtags do you want to follow, what key moments do you want to watch closely, which brand advocates and/or influencers are important to you?

Using Khoros Intelligence, you can create alerts for specific queries so that you can quickly be notified of any fluctuations in conversation trends or when specific influencers and advocates post on social media.

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3. Collaborate across teams and functions

In moments like these, teams cannot act and think in a silo. Your content will directly impact inbound comment volumes and trends across your social channels. So, as a social media marketer or manager, you must provide customer support and care teams with the proper messaging and content calendars so they can stay current on your brand’s strategy. These customer support teams and care teams must implement the right escalation pathways and response matrix so that there’s no confusion or misstep during key moments.

When our teams are planning for moments like these, we map out content/topic queues within Khoros Care or Khoros Marketing and specific response teams for those queues so that we can have the right players in place to quickly address comments that have been deemed crucial. We also create scenarios for different outcomes so that teams can reference those models when a crisis or high priority moment arises. Again, the last thing you want is to second guess a decision when every moment matters.

4. Evaluate your strategy with real-time metrics

No plan is perfect, and that goes double for election content plans. Even if you’ve followed our first three steps exactly, we’re all human and mistakes or missteps happen. It’s ok if you have to iterate and change course. Just make sure you’re armed with the right information to guide your decisions.

First, start by taking a deep look at your data. If you’ve decided you want to publish election-focused content, make sure that you’re evaluating sentiment, brand affinity, and on/off-topic conversation. Is it what you anticipated? While the negative sentiment may cause initial panic, it’s okay to have a little negative feedback — not everyone will agree with what you say, especially if you make the choice to take a stand and advocate for a particular message. If you’ve prepared for this outcome, stay the course, and continue to monitor closely. Bring in other teams to help you decide if a pivot is necessary.

For many of our customers, we develop thresholds that allow us to evaluate real-time trends compared to similar campaigns or moments. This helps take us out of the weeds so we can objectively decide if any action is needed and what that should be based on historical reactions and performance.

And, last, but by no means least, consider what reports will be helpful in those first few days and weeks. Yes, data is important, but it needs to be the right data and not every metric that is available to you. Is it sentiment and sentiment shift over time? If so, make sure you have the right label structure set up. The metrics that you are evaluating and presenting to internal teams need to inform decisions and actions so make sure they are outlining that story.

5. Refine and iterate

After gathering metrics and evaluating your campaign’s performance, refine as needed. What does, “refine as needed” mean? In practice, this means asking, “how do we define success?” Your answer to this question will inform the refinements that you should make moving forward. Sometimes that means a complete overhaul and sometimes only small tweaks may be needed (e.g. adjustments to a CTA in your post copy). The best social media marketers are the ones with agility, so be flexible enough in your plan to adapt to whatever changes may come. Depending on the KPIs you and your team have chosen, using data and qualitative feedback are key to making the adjustments that resonate with your audience. At Khoros, we embody this through the mantra, “Decide. Execute. Iterate.” Failure doesn’t have to be cloaked in negativity. With every failure there are learning moments that should be acknowledged and embraced. It’s hard to do, believe me, I know. But if you don’t learn from your mistakes, you’ll never move forward.

Last, but by no means least, it’s important to remember that your campaign doesn’t (or at least shouldn’t) exist in a silo. Always notify stakeholders about changes, as well as about what’s working and what’s not. Debrief with your team and other teams (creative, communications, marketing, customer support, etc.) to iterate success moving forward. Remember: their success is yours as well, so put them in a position to be successful.

Election season is never easy for anyone, especially social media marketers. There are constant hurdles and pitfalls, and you have to do your best to navigate them without losing the social media impact you’ve worked so hard to build. But with the right strategies — and the right tools — you can create original, engaging, and genuine content that speaks to your audience.

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