All candidates for elected office feel a compulsion to share and comment often on Facebook, Twitter, and the various other social media platforms. Because of this many candidates get themselves into hot water due to what they post on social media. It’s easy to do – but it’s even easier to keep yourself out of trouble if you follow these three rules.
These three rules should guide all of your campaign’s interactions on Facebook and all other social media outlets. They are actually three questions that you or your social media manager should ask before you share or comment on anything.
If these three questions seem familiar, it’s because they have been around for a long time. I’ve adapted them from the “Three Tests” or “Triple Filter” system for dealing with rumors that is attributed to Socrates. Since so much of the political discussion on social media is driven by rumors, half-truths, innuendo, and even fake news, these three tests or filters should be adopted by every candidate and campaign.
Here’s a short video explaining the three truths/ triple filters:
1. Is It True?
Is the video, comment, or article that you’re about to share on Facebook, Twitter, etcettera, true?
How do you know it’s true? Does it come from a news source you trust?
If it’s information you’ve learned about another candidate, do you have the documentation that anyone can review and verify it’s authenticity?
If you can’t answer that what you want to share or comment with on social media is 100% true, then your campaign should not be posting it at all.
Sharing false information can hurt your credibility as a candidate. You can be perceived by the voters as someone willing to say anything to get elected, someone who is dangerously misinformed, or as a fountain of fake news.
If you lose credibility with the voters, you lose their trust. If you lose their trust, you lose their votes.
Now this does not mean that you can’t take a position on an issue or state your point of view. Often a factual matter has multiple points of view. You should always be willing to state and share yours. Just be sure you can back it up.
For example, Donald Trump and the Republican Congress have stated their intention to reduce taxes for all income levels to grow the economy. Democrats opposing such tax cuts are saying these are tax cuts for the rich, in particularly the richest 1% of income earners.
Both sides of this issue are telling the truth based on the data they have. Even though they see the issue differently, they have very strong and different points of view about the impact of what these tax cuts would be. Supporters and opponents of the proposed income tax reductions could truthfully take to social media (and they have) to make their case to the voters.
2. Is It Good?
Once you determine that the information your campaign wishes to share is true, you need to ask a second question: Is what you’re about to share good?
Political campaigns are full of attacks, mudslinging, and negative tactics. That doesn’t mean that your campaign needs to go negative. In fact, it may not need to at all.
Even if you do need to lay a hit against your opponent, that shouldn’t be the only information you’re sharing. You should be pushing out plenty of information about your plans, the issues that are important to you (and the voters too), and what your specific qualifications are for the office you are seeking.
Voters want to know that you stand for something and that you understand what is important to them. That’s why it’s important to craft a winning campaign story that resonates with the voters. That story guides everything you do on your campaign, including what you share on Facebook and social media.
Should you need to go negative and point out some unflattering things about your opponent, even after you’ve ensured that it’s true, you need to make sure that it’s good.
That may sound like an oxymoron, making sure your negative attack is good, but it’s vital. If you go negative you have to do it with something that is relevant to the voters and easy for them to understand. That’s a good hit.
The best attacks are usually based on a previous vote or statement made by your opponent that is at odds with what the voters deem important. When you have a good hit like that, you should repeat it quite often, on social media and elsewhere.
But if the hit against them is confusing and convoluted, you’ll be ignored. If it’s not related to something that concerns the voters of your district, even if it’s clear cut, then the hit against your opponent won’t matter. In those cases, the hit is not good and should be avoided.
Likewise, if you have a truthful, relevant, and clear issue to attack on, but you go over the top in how you deliver it or exaggerate its consequences, you’ll also damage your credibility and likely void the attack. That’s not a good hit to share anywhere.
3. Is It Useful?
If you’ve gotten this far, you are definite that what you want to share on Facebook is both true and good, so you can ask this third and final question: Is it useful?
On a campaign, the only things that are useful to you are those that help you get elected to office. Everything else is a distraction and a waste of time, money, or both.
When it comes to Facebook, Twitter, and their social media cousins, if what you’re posting is not useful, it should not be posted at all – even if what you want to share is both true and good.
Everything you share on social must tell and complement the story of your campaign. It must connect that story with your voters. It takes discipline to do this, but that’s how campaigns are won. Winning candidates stay focused.
Given the pressure you will feel to share on social media every day, if not several times a day, you will be tempted to share things that show you are present and engaged. This can create a lot of random and useless posts. It won’t help your campaign at all.
Always, always, always share things that are useful to telling your story, helping voters to get to know you, and letting them know what is in the election. What you had for lunch, who you had it with, or how many doors you knocked on today, isn’t useful and won’t help you win.
With social media, you’ll receive questions and comments from voters that don’t fit into your campaign story. For the most part, you will need to answer them, and you’ll need to answer them honestly. If possible, always lead them back to your main story so they can understand who you are and what you wish to accomplish in office.
You’ll also encounter mean, snarky, and downright vile comments on social media. People say absolutely horrible things from behind the safety of a screen that they probably wouldn’t dream of saying to your face. Always remain calm and professional when dealing with such people.
If they are slandering you and misrepresenting your positions, you should politely and specifically provide the correct information in your reply comments. You don’t want to get drug into a long back and forth here, but you must stand up for yourself in a firm yet polite manner because other voters are watching and deciding how to vote by what you write.
When it’s time to close off a conversation with a “hater” do so by staying polite, tell them you appreciate their involvement in the political process and that the two of you will have to agree to disagree. Then you leave the conversation. They will try to pull you back into it. Don’t take the bait. That’s not a useful way to spend your time.
If you want to stay out of trouble on social media, then before you post, share, or comment on Facebook or anywhere else, ask yourself these three questions: Is it true? Is it good? Is it useful?
By doing that you’ll not only avoid potentially damaging situations and interactions on social media, you’ll also find it’ll be easier knowing what to share and what comments to make. You’ll be telling your story on your terms, staying on messaging, and bringing voters to your side to win your election.