Social media is one of the greatest tools to come out of the rise of the Internet.
Families and friends miles and sometimes oceans apart can stay in constant contact.
We don’t have to wait for a scheduled time for news to be delivered. It’s instantly and literally at our fingertips in our social media channels feed on our phones.
Social media also provides political candidates with a cost effective means to communicate with voters.
There is however one ginormous downside for candidates with social media — when you screw up, say, or share something inappropriate, it’s not likely an isolated event.
Thanks to Social Media, everyone is going to know when you say something you shouldn’t have.
Now all of us say things we wish we hadn’t and that we’d like to take back. It’s part of life. We’re human beings, ergo we’re flawed.
Candidates are human and therefore not immune to it — however you are also under a magnifying glass.
At one point in history, a bad off the cuff comment might be overheard by someone, but if it didn’t wind up printed in the newspaper you had very little to worry about.
As newspaper readership dwindled, you could even survive an inappropriate quote in the paper just as long as it wasn’t reprinted in stories multiple times. But even that wasn’t the kiss of death.
Being caught on camera stating something offensive was worse, especially if it found its way onto the news. And that would only last a news cycle or two as long as your opponent didn’t take the footage and put it into a commercial against you.
With the arrival of social media and its widespread use that borders on obsessive-compulsive behavior, that all changed.
A story about a candidate saying or doing something they wish they didn’t could quickly wind up online. Then it could be posted to a social media account, then shared or retweeted ad infinitum.
Video even became a bigger threat to a candidate. Remember this video taken of presidential candidate Mitt Romney in 2008?
You don’t have to worry about whether a news station would run the video of a bad remark you make these days.
Once a video gets uploaded to Facebook or YouTube, it can go viral and be seen my countless voters before the traditional news ever does a story.
All of this is a reminder that as much as social media can connect a candidate with their constituents, social media can also destroy a campaign faster than a swarm of desert locust.
As a candidate you must always be mindful of what you’re saying.
This doesn’t mean you betray your beliefs and principles when you run. It does mean that you don’t say stupid, mean, or offensive things when stating your beliefs and principles.
Don’t be so sure of that. At the time I’m writing this (March 30, 2016) Mr. Trump is not yet the Republican presidential nominee.
In fact only 37% of voters who have cast ballots in Republican presidential primaries have voted for Donald Trump. 63% have voted against him.
In my experience 30% to 35% of voters in any given race are contrarians. They vote contrary to the way the majority of voters are leaning for a variety of reasons, many of them hard to explain. Often it has to do with some deep seated mistrust of politicians and the system, so it’s not all that shocking to me that Trump has galvanized these folks.
Mr. Trump has utilized his celebrity status, his money, and a ratings-driven news outlets to tap into this universe of contrarian voters better than most candidates can.
A divided Republican field has allowed Trump to become the party’s front runner. It is not in and of itself any indicator of Trump’s true ability to win a clear majority of voters to his side.
Donald Trump’s March 29th MSNBC Townhall remarks on abortion might prove to be a bridge too far for him. If not in the remaining Republican primaries, then in the November General Election.
Even if you’re supporting Trump, emulating him in your campaign probably isn’t going to work. Especially if you want to make off-the-cuff comments that offend large blocks of voters.
Winning elections is about getting a majority of voters to support you, even if you only need a solid plurality to win.
As a candidate you’re after a clear majority, so be conscious of what you say at all times.
This is true when you’re in a town hall with or without a media presences.
It’s true when addressing a hostile crowd that doesn’t not share your views.
It’s also true when you’re talking to a group of people that support you, like Mr. Romney was.
And guess what? It’s true if you’re sitting down in your neighborhoods Starbucks talking to a close confidant in what you think is a “private conversation.”
Nearly everyone can record audio and video on their phones. Always assume you’re being recorded and be careful not to say things off the cuff you will regret later.
This does take a fair share of discipline, but discipline is not a bad thing. Discipline means you know what you want and are focused on getting it.
The best candidates for office have great discipline and tremendous focus. This self discipline prepares them for being leaders when they win election.
Your focus should be on winning your election and getting elected.