Why presidential candidates need social media to succeed (and why you do, too)

By Paul Wilson


I came across an article today detailing how much the world of presidential campaigning has changed in just the last few years.

Four years ago, President Obama quickly made a name for himself through his then unprecedented usage of social media to update and unify his supporters.

Heading into this year’s election, Republicans, historically seen by many as old-fashioned and out of touch, are also taking full advantage. Last weekend, Mitt Romney’s campaign announced his new running mate, Congressman Paul Ryan, via Twitter, Facebook and a newly designed “VP app.” Almost immediately, Ryan began tweeting from a “PaulRyanVP” Twitter profile and a new “Paul Ryan VP” Facebook emerged shortly thereafter.

Why has social media become so important to the presidential race? For many of the same reasons that it’s important to those in the financial services industry.

“For a presidential candidate, they really should be everywhere people are,” said Dave Kerpen, CEO of social media marketing company Likeable Media in the piece.

Couldn’t the same be said for advisors? In order to establish yourself as an expert and become a household name in your community, you need to remain highly visible to your clients and prospects. You, too, need to be where people are, but I guarantee you one thing: No matter where they are, they’re taking full advantage of social networking the entire time. What did you think all those people were doing last night at the movie/restaurant/grocery store with their noses stuck in their phones ?

But it’s not just where the message is delivered, but the message itself that matters, according to the article.

While speed and omnipresence are increasingly important in our society, one of the biggest boons for presidential candidates (and, I would argue, advisors) who take to social media is the opportunity to give a glimpse of their true personality.

“Speed is important of course,” says Kerpen later in the article. “But more important than speed is authenticity and personality.”

Thanks to social media, we have access to pictures of President Obama on vacation with his daughters and know that Paul Ryan’s is a fan of Monty Python, Metallica and bow hunting.

And while we have grown cynical enough about politicians that one could be excused for taking this information with a grain of salt, it does make a difference.

As the article points out, in a world of attack ads and 24/7 political rhetoric, people “want to know that their candidates aren’t robots.”

Granted, you’re probably not facing a carefully orchestrated PR onslaught from your rival across town, but it’s still important to present a more approachable side to clients and prospects. After all, would you rather entrust your financial future to some random stranger with an ad on the side of the bus or the lady who you know is active in your community and whose kids you’ve watched grow up on Facebook?

It’s also important to note that along with the many opportunities provided by social media comes another level of responsibility. For example, the Romney camp touted his new VP app in recent weeks as the place where followers would be “the first to find out” who the running mate would be. Alas, the majority of Americans, followers or not, found out about the Ryan pick long before the app was updated. Just like in any other part of your business, make sure you live up to your followers’ expectation once you delve into the world of social networking.

It’s still too early to predict who will win the election in November, but one thing’s for sure: Both candidates will be sharing, tweeting and updating us every step of the way. Like it or not, it’s the way of the world, and advisors who stubbornly resist the tide are falling further behind every day. Mitt and Barack are doing it — isn’t it time you did, too?