Over a 10 month period this year, I consulted for a gubernatorial campaign on their digital goals, social media training, social media tactics, and managing their paid social media. Here are some of the lessons I took away.
Sometimes You Don't Have the Data You Want
Data is important, but it's not everything. If you're selling a product it's pretty straightforward, you can measure the success of every move you make against the sales of that product. In the online universe, success can be a matter of testing and interpreting the data to hone in on the audience and message that will generate the most sales at the lowest cost. In an election ultimately there's only one measurement that matters … votes. As we've seen in national elections, polling data is not reliable, the only solid data is election results - that information comes too late.
You Still Need Goals
Even though you have uncertainty you still you need to set goals and measure progress to be effective. We learned to set multiple goals and change them throughout the campaign.
Numbers Can Be Deceiving - Look Beyond the Numbers
If your goal is engagement and you see a spike, before you celebrate take a closer look to see if it's generated by positive or negative comments. A high relevance score and a low cost per engagement from Facebook might be misleading. Be sure you understand what's behind the numbers. If you set a Facebook campaign optimized for an action, take a closer look at how often that ad is being delivered to voters. How many voters are you turning off on the way to generating that click? This is why a hands on human approach is so important to paid social.
The Only Constant is Change
Be ready to make changes at any time. Humans just aren't as predictable as we like to tell ourselves. Take your research and make your best guess at what will work, test it and adjust. Then do it again... and again. Once you have it all figured out, expect everything to change as news events develop. Even if you've got the perfect system, if it runs more than a few months there's a good chance your social media platforms will change (for example Facebook added new audience targeting options and lead ads during our run.)
People Love to See themselves
Some of our must popular shares were photos from events our candidate attended. They say all politics is local, that means lots of visiting. The best way to win votes – meet voters. On social media, you can amplify the power of these visits by sharing photos of the candidate visiting neighborhood landmarks and leaders.
We had a fantastic team, and we needed it. Keep a cache of engaging posts at the ready for slow days, there won't be many of them. The rest of the time be ready to react quickly. Responding to voter comments not only allowed us to set the record straight, it gave a good sense of what was important to our audience and made them feel heard.
Sometimes the Audience is Too Small
Common advice about paid advertising on Facebook pretty much boils down to finding the audience that allows for the lowest cost of customer acquisition. Our case was different. There's a finite set of people that are likely to vote. That's the target audience, like it or not. Even a statewide election, in Vermont anything we did to segment that audience by issue, demographics or location usually created an audience so small it became ineffective for Facebook campaigns. If you do define micro audience segments be sure to keep advertising budgets small, it's very easy to over saturate.
So how does all this apply to your next client? Every client is like a puzzle. You start with your gut instinct (informed by the client's research and experience) and then you start testing. It's the process we went through to understand how to effectively manage social media for this political campaign that is the takeaway.
It has been more than a year now since I started working with the founder and CEO of Spartan Race Joe De Sena developing and producing the "Spartan Up!" podcast. We've traveled the world exploring what drives successful athletes, entrepreneurs, CEOs, adventurers, professors authors, thought leaders .. even monks, trying to discover and share what we can learn from them. I think I've shot about 300 interviews, and Joe's done another 20 or so without me. So what have we learned? Joe has a series of articles published in Entrepreneur, Inc and here on Linkedin breaking down many of the lessons. I'll try to sum up my thoughts from behind the camera here.
This week we published the 100th episode in which our panel of hosts each talk about their favorite interviews so far. Doctor Johnny chose a few of the authors, Col Nye chose National Geographic Explorer Shannon Galpin, Dr. Delle chose the world's greatest living explorer Sir Ran Fiennes, Sefra chose Sealfit's Mark Divine and Joe chose one of my all time favorites Karim Jaude.
So what if I had been asked to choose? Impossible. BUT among my favories are Nate Carr and his amazing positivity, Tony The Fridge and his intensity, Jay Jackson who reminded us to say we "get to" no we "have to," Levison Wood who had JUST returned from walking the entire Nile, Nicole DeBoom who brought out Joe's "sassy" side, Mimi Anderson who is unstoppable, of course Angela Duckworth THE expert on GRIT, Risa Mish and her concrete tips on critical thinking, Richard Branson who reminded us to see the best in everyone, Amit Kumar who learned experiences are better than possessions, Dan Edwardes who understands the links between fear and physical movement, Zach Even - Esh who talked about the failures and struggles on the way to success and lives it with sheer enthusiasm for life, Dick Costolo who made the connection between stand up comedy and business success, Juliet Starrett and her hippo escape story, Frank Grippe who understands the value of sheer force of will, Jennifer Gilbert who one day decided not to deviate from her life's plan, Mark Webb who was amazing already and just kept it up after losing a foot ... I hate to start this list knowing I'm missing so many - I can honestly say there has not been one interview that has not taught me something.
If I had to sum it up -
1. Sometimes it's just sheer force of will that gets you there.
2. Optimism is KEY, without it you will never persevere.
3. The mind lives in the body, you can't take care of one but not the other.
4. Every thing you do is a privilege, never take it for granted.
And from the panel - when you have a good team around you, hard work becomes a pleasure.
Here's the 100th episode:
Spartan Race has created a new endurance event and we were there to shoot it's beta test - Spartan Agoge 000. Here's the video we created to promote it.
When the Farm & Wilderness Foundation asked me to explore diversity at their Vermont camp and create a video I was excited by the project. This was not your typical "marketing" project but a true exploration. We interviewed over 30 campers, staff, alumnae and trustees asking about their feelings on diversity. It certainly opened my mind to the intricacies of this complicated issue. The fact that the foundation was eager to hear the truth and to include statements about areas where improvement is needed proves their commitment to true diversity.
I was interviewed this month on Vermont Public Television's show "Current" about my film "Flood Bound" Vermont PBS will be re-airing Flood Bound August 27th (along with Rob Koier's film Strength of the Storm.) They interviewed me last week for thier show "Connect." I meant to do a better job thanking my neighbors who are in the film and my friends and neighbors who helped make it, but they threw me off when they started the show calling me a "Filmmaker and media mogul."
You can watch the interview on VPT's web site.
More about the film at Flood Bound.
It's been an incredible journey developing, producing and marketing the Spartan Up! Podcast. From the first day when Spartan founder and CEO Joe Desena asked me about getting a podcast up and running. We had been working together promoting his book "Spartan Up!" and he had done quite a few quest appearances. Over the last 6 months the concept has grown exponentially. We've shot over 130 interviews with amazing people all over the world, developed a panel to introduce and discuss the interviews, and set up a web site with lessons and notes from each panel member to help the audience get the most out of each episode.
One of the things I've learned in this process is that rankings on iTunes are constantly fluctuating. But we had a great week for the show last week, and I figure we ought to pause and celebrate it. We hit #1 in Careers, #4 in all business shows, and ranked #35 out of ALL podcasts in all categories. Ok, now back to work.
For the last few months friends and colleagues may have noticed I've been pretty busy, and on the road quite a bit. I can finally tell you why! This summer I started developing a podcast concept for my neighbor Joe Desena. Joe is the founder and CEO of Spartan Race and the NYT Best Selling Author of "Spartan Up!"
The idea of the podcast is to travel the world interviewing people at the top of their game - authors, executives, adventurers and athletes - to find out what makes them tick, then share those lessons with the Spartan audience. We've met amazing athletes like Tony the Fridge (runs Ultra Marathons with a Fridge on his back,) the author Steven Pressfield, the SEAL Team 6 member who shot Bin Laden, the World's Greatest Living Explorer Sir. Ran Fiennes, and one of the most adventurous CEOs in the world Richard Branson. This has been a great hands on project for me personally and I continue to enjoy the opportunity to build this project from the ground up as it morphs, grows and takes on a life of it's own. With 90+ interviews in the can we are really excited about the product. Right now we are rolling out our first promotional efforts, pulling key lessons from each interview to incorporate into the show notes, and shooting intro.s with our expert panel for the 90+ interviews.
Look for the series on iTunes in early January, or sign up now for updates at Spartan Up Podcast.
Click on any of the images to see them full screen.