Social Media and Politics: How to speak directly to your audience (#nofilter is allowed)

The word you see on the Snickers package below, “Listín,” is not a word in the Spanish dictionary. This is part of the Puerto Rican jargon, so most people in the Island know what it means. It is basically another form of referring to another person as “smarty pants.”

Puerto Rico’s version of the brand’s global campaign, "You're Not You When You're Hungry” successfully keeps the brand’s voice and personality. However, it has a very special touch, which has to do precisely with language. By making use of very specific terms that only locals in their target market would understand, the brand perfectly highlights the importance of knowing who you are talking to on social media. This is why, in my opinion, the brand’s engagement numbers skyrocket.

What does this have to do with this year’s election? Simply explained, just like the folks at BBDO Puerto Rico found the perfect way to tailor a message in such a way that the audience could understand, identify and relate to, there are three politicians that did the same successfully: Alexandra Lúgaro, Hillary Clinton and, yes, Donald Trump. Each one of them took a unique approach to communicate with their fans, talking into consideration particular groups within one bigger audience, or simply using a language that no other politician had ever used before.

Hillary Clinton: Speaking to Latinos

Earlier this year, Hillary Clinton’ campaign released a dedicated Twitter account in Spanish.

Translation: Today is Election Day. Send VOTE to 47246 if you have any questions about what you should take when you vote.

Taking into consideration the fact that over 40 million people speak Spanish in the United States and how important is the Latino vote, this strategy aimed at connecting with this group at a personal, deeper level. Also, this approach provided a viable communications vehicle that specifically addresses Latinos in order for them to have access to relevant campaign information, proposals, speeches, town halls, and even instructions about how to vote. In my opinion, it was not only about writing in a language that Latinos can understand because most, like myself, also speak English, but also about providing an alternative that’s relatable to their native language.

By making the information about the campaign accessible to the Latino community, the candidate demonstrated how much she cares about inclusion; about Latinos feeling part of the campaign. This gave the audience a chance, not only to be able to read Clinton’s tweets, but also to engage using the Spanish language, by asking questions, liking , and retweeting. As a result, the campaign was able to amplify the message, beyond its main Twitter account, reaching other audiences.

In addition to this effort, the campaign was also able to refer traffic from Twitter to another form of communication (SMS messages) to continue engaging. Some of the messages redirected users to a Spanish website. The idea of social media is to drive audiences to engage with us; communications does not stop when we publish a message. That’s exactly when it begins.

Speaking to deaf and hard of hearing communities

One of the two independent candidates for governor of Puerto Rico, Alexandra Lúgaro, created a social media buzz when she published her Facebook and YouTube accounts the following live video addressing deaf and hard of hearing communities:

Just like Hillary Clinton crafted her messages to Latinos, Lúgaro also identified one specific group she wanted to address. What’s important here is not whether or not she used sign language correctly, but that she did the whole thing by herself, without interpreters even if that meant spelling every letter of the alphabet. The idea here was that this community could identify and understand the message, while getting the feeling that a candidate was paying attention to them.

No matter what percentage this group represents from the total population, it should not be unattended. This initiative was not about numbers. It was about the candidate herself, who personally runs all her social media accounts, voluntarily talking the time to learn the signs and live stream the message. The broadcast was not pre-recorded or edited. Everything you see her doing in the video, without taking a break, was totally natural. In other words, she was very brave.

#NoFilter: The end of a politically correct era

President elect Donald Trump ran his campaign on Twitter in a very unusual, unexpected way, making use of rough words and insults, as well as cruel and sometimes incoherent phrases. He stepped away from the general public’s idea that politicians are meant to be “politically correct,” which means people expect them to speak properly, refraining from vulgar expressions.

What made his message different? The fact that what was written on Twitter actually came from him; he spoke his mind. This really wasn’t any different from the Donald Trump we knew before. He brought his unique style from the real estate and entertainment industries to the political arena.

He was well aware about the fact that, on Twitter, in order to get people’s attention you need to do it fast and boldly because there is a lot of noise and competition. Trump was able to find a way to cut through the clutter by appealing to emotions like fear to convince people in such a way that they engaged devotedly by sharing, liking and commenting on his posts. It turns out that this language was consistent with the way his millions of followers felt, yet it was the first time they heard such expressions from a politician.

Just like Snickers used Puerto Rican jargon, Hillary opened a Twitter account to speak to Latinos, and Alexandra Lúgaro spoke directly to deaf and hard of hearing communities, Donald Trump also managed to develop a communications strategy on social media that was in agreement with how his more than 15 million Twitter followers really felt. By using CAPS to highlight some words, addressing emotions, and his rhetorical language, he was able to deliver a convincing message to an audience who apparently was looking for a leader that spoke their same language on social media.

These examples are meant to highlight the importance of spending time to identify relevant groups within your social media audience. I know that most of us would love to have an ideal world in which we can speak to everyone the same way and forget about crafting and adapting messages, but the fact is that there is a lot of noise on social media and it is with these strategies that you have a better chance to get closer to your online community. The examples above have one thing in common, which is they all address their audiences directly.

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