The Use of Social Media in a Local Political Campaign with Aubrey Blankenship CW 27 transcript

social media with aubrey blankenship

John Tsarpalas: Today I am talking to Aubrey Blankenship, director of communications for American Majority. We are going to be talking about using social media for your political campaign- the basic campaign website, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, some thoughts and ideas, basics, strategies.

So stick with us because here we go; Commonwealthy #27, the use of social media in a local political campaign with Aubrey Blankenship.

Today on Commonwealthy I am joined by Aubrey Blankenship, communications director for American Majority. As you’ve heard in previous podcasts here on Commonwealthy, American Majority is a group that has the same mission as this podcast; that’s to train activists and candidates on how to run for local office.

Aubrey, welcome to the podcast.

Aubrey Blankenship:  Thank you, John. I am happy to be here.

John Tsarpalas: So social media, a whole new aspect to campaigning since I’ve come along. We didn’t worry about this in the nineties. Somewhere in the early 2000’s we started kicking in social networking and things like that. I really think it is making a huge difference in this current primary season, especially in the Republican party. It seems that candidates can get up to speed quicker because of social media.

We are talking about people running for local office- school boards, county boards, townships, and all kinds of things. Let’s start off with some basics of social media. Is Facebook the starting point for most people?

Aubrey Blankenship: Facebook is absolutely a starting point. I always say that if you are going to do anything online, Facebook is number one. That’s where your audience is and that’s where you should be.

John Tsarpalas: I think for my listeners, most of them are on Facebook. I know for demographics, Facebook is trending older. I know that I’ve gotten more active in Facebook. What I love about it is I am in touch with people from forty years ago that I went to high school with and things like that.

Aubrey Blankenship: Exactly. That’s the exciting part about Facebook. It’s not just the teens or millennials; it’s actually fifty plus and growing. It does have the over one billion monthly active users.

So there you go. It’s the perfect starting point for a campaign. The people you want to talk to are already on there, so it’s just about getting on there and then gaining their attention.

John Tsarpalas: Okay. So you get on. You set up your own personal page. Hopefully they’ve done that long before they are running for a campaign or office. Let’s start with a personal page. It’s simple. You go to, you login in, and you set up your page, right?

Aubrey Blankenship: Sure. I actually, to eliminate confusion, call that a personal account. So we all have our personal accounts. We accept friends and we friend other people, so it’s that two-way connection. So, yes, for most of the people wanting to run for office, they already have that personal account.

But Facebook also has the option to set up something a little bit different and that’s what Facebook calls the page. So I would encourage people running for office to have their personal account, maintain that, and keep doing what they have been doing. Just be themselves on a personal level.

And then set up an additional Facebook page. There you can set yourself up as a public figure or a politician. People actually have to like your page and then they will follow your content that way.

John Tsarpalas: So explain that to me. If someone clicks like, then they are a follower? I’m lost.

Aubrey Blankenship: Exactly!

John Tsarpalas: See, I didn’t know this.

Aubrey Blankenship: It’s different terminology instead of friend. For instance, if after this podcast I wanted to become your Facebook friend, I’ll find you and friend you via that personal account and personal connection.

But if, for instance, you have set up a public page, so you are public figure, then I would find that. I couldn’t friend you, since you are more like a business; I would have to like you. And then I follow you. That’s for any organization or musician or celebrity or anything like that. So even a local candidate can have a page just like any larger public figure.

John Tsarpalas: Okay. So they set up their page. Some of the first things you do is there is a place for your personal photo and then there is the top of the page, the header, which you can put in a logo or some kind of a design. Is that correct?

Aubrey Blankenship: Exactly. I do encourage lots of photos. Trying to tell your stories with photos is always the best place to start.

John Tsarpalas: Okay. So they are putting photos on the page. But I am talking about right at the top of the page. It’s almost like where you put your logo. They would load that in. Are there perimeters for the size of that kind of stuff? Or does Facebook spell all of that out? Do you have a certain amount of pixels?

The reason I talk about that is I know for iTunes for this podcast I can’t have more than 400×400 pixels on the cover art. Is it is like that with Facebook? Are they particular? Or is it a much simpler system?

Aubrey Blankenship: They let you upload images I think of any size as long as they are certain dimensions. Let me think here. You can upload any image, but there are recommended sizes.

So what I would recommend, and I don’t have them on top of my head right now, just googling recommended Facebook image size. They will have a square recommendation for the Facebook profile and other image sizes for the various other images. So definitely take advantage of the recommended image dimensions.

John Tsarpalas: Yeah, that’s the answer if everything. If you google it, it’s there. Just google it. And YouTube, there’s a tutorial on everything. This is how I learned how to podcast. This is how I am getting through life- just googling it!

Aubrey Blankenship: Exactly. That’s how I keep up with social media. It’s finding out what other people are saying out it. A quick Google search usually tells me what I need to know.

John Tsarpalas: Perfect. Okay, so they set up their campaign page and get some photos up. And then ever now and then they throw some content up. They write a comment or they click on something they like and they are sharing it? Or are they actually posting things there that they’ve written.

Aubrey Blankenship: You know, it’s all of the above. The first thing that I tell people when they are at the beginning stages of setting up a page, and it is very exciting because you get to start from scratch (no mistakes yet, right?), is to really set clear, measurable goals.

You can just post whatever you are thinking just like you do with your own personal accounts. But a Facebook page, like a Twitter account, is much more effective if you actually write out clear, measurable goals for success. What do I actually want to communicate?

And actually before you even ask that question, the question is who is my audience? Who am I talking to? So of course that is going to determine the type of content that you will be posting.

John Tsarpalas: Okay. I know there are privacy settings on a personal page. Are there privacy settings on a business page? Do they have to worry about who is coming in and out or not? Or open it up?

Aubrey Blankenship: You know, that’s a good question. I know there are certain privacy settings. They are being updated all the time, but I am not on top of that right now.

John Tsarpalas: Okay. I have a feeling the business ones don’t have it because why would you want to block yourself?

Aubrey Blankenship: Yeah. What I would encourage you to do is open up your page for anyone who wants to follow you. But, for instance, American Majority’s Facebook page has almost four hundred thousand people liking our page, so the dialogue can get a little dicey at times.

As far as privacy, what I do is I kind of put in different options to censor certain dialogue, such as swear words and things like that. That’s more of the type of privacy issues you’ll deal with for a page.

John Tsarpalas: Okay. How does someone help promote themselves to get people to like their page? How do you let people know it is there?

Aubrey Blankenship: Great question. I think the first thing to do is to ask your friends to like the page. Facebook makes that pretty simple. For instance, I just went to a page of a local candidate here in Louden County who is running. At the top it said, “Please accept the request to connect from one of your friends to interact with this page.”

A simpler way to say that is one of my friends reached out to me and said, “Like this page,” and Facebook was reminding me of that. Facebook makes it easy to connect friends to friends to pages. So that’s the very best place to start.

I think that the very best way to do it is to remember why people are on Facebook in the first place. People are there to connect with people they know. Then secondarily, they are there connect with public figures and causes. Really trying to reach people who already know you and then reaching friends of friends is the very best way.

Second is to create compelling content that will then reach new people. First of all, creating compelling content that will allow the people who like your page to want to share that. Consequently, people see that content, click on your page and like you and your content. Sharing your content is the very organic way to connect with people.

Facebook has also made it a little bit more difficult to reach people organically. Facebook wants to encourage its users to pay money to reach more people, to reach a broader audience. So there’s that option as well to do some Facebook ads to reach the type of demographic you are looking at.

Specifically, if you are a local candidate and you try to reach people in your area and like similar pages, you can put some money towards that. I do encourage local candidates to think about Facebook ads on a limited basis since it can get very, very, very pricey.

John Tsarpalas: Right. Now there’s something I’ve seen on my page for Commonwealthy that says boost. What does that mean?

Aubrey Blankenship: Facebook will ask you to boost a post. It will do this quite frequently, especially if your post is getting more likes or shares than average. For instance, today I saw a notification from Facebook that informed me that the Facebook post was getting 95% more traction than my others. It encouraged me to boost the post.

This means that I pay extra money just to let that post gain more exposure. You can choose whether you want people who already like you to view it or people who don’t like you to view it. So you are really gaining exposure for that one post.

I actually am not a huge fan of boosting a particular post, which could be an image or just comments or a video or link, something that you are posting. I encourage people to boost their page. So when people actually see their page, they’ll like it versus just liking the post.

John Tsarpalas: Okay. And does the cost vary? What would someone expect to pay for a boost of a page?

Aubrey Blankenship: Well, you can limit it. You can limit a boost. So Facebook, as far as I understand it, gives you different pricing options based off of how many people follow your Facebook page. So with different Facebook pages that I am in charge of, I’ll have the different pricing options. But what I do if I boost a post is just put a cap.

John Tsarpalas: So it only goes up to a certain dollar amount.

Aubrey Blankenship: Exactly.

John Tsarpalas: Okay. So you can’t overspend. You are not going to get too committed.

Aubrey Blankenship: Absolutely.

John Tsarpalas: Okay. You’ve got your Facebook page built. It’s up. You are adding content. You are perhaps once in a while advertising, perhaps not. What is your next step? Many of us have LinkedIn accounts for our professional lives. I would assume something should happen on my LinkedIn account.

Aubrey Blankenship: Sure. Actually before I talk LinkedIn, going back to Facebook (and this applies to LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, or whatever else you want to focus on), I really encourage especially local candidates to think about their campaign website as the hub. You want to drive that content, their voters, their audience, to their campaign websites.

Think about the different social media networks as the spokes. So they are driving that. With all of it, the wheels are turning and they are gaining momentum. For instance, with Facebook, it can’t be an island by itself; it has to be integrated with the website. You are pointing back to your website. The same thing with LinkedIn.

So that’s really going to inform your strategy. You don’t want to just capture a lot of attention on Facebook and then let it die there. Always, always push people back to your website, your email list, your volunteer and donor pages, and things like that. So that’s a strategy as a whole.

Kind of going back to what I said in the beginning of setting clear, measurable goals for success and then having a plan to achieve those objectives. Always circle back to your campaign website and then go out from there.

John Tsarpalas: Okay. Do we want to touch on email as part of a social media strategy? Or is that a separate issue?

Aubrey Blankenship: Well, that is absolutely a separate issue, but it should always be mentioned when we are talking social media because I believe that email is still keen. I really encourage people to try to capture email addresses with social media.

So with a Facebook page, you can post a petition, volunteer sign ups, or things like that. People can be added to your email list and then they can be connected with you in that way.

So absolutely use social media to add to your email list. But you’ll also know that a lot of people who follow you on social media may never give up their email address, so you want to reach them in that way as well.

John Tsarpalas: Okay. So I mentioned LinkedIn. I know that I’ve been on there for quite a few years for business purposes. Does a candidate go back and change their status on LinkedIn? How do they use LinkedIn to promote themselves as a candidate in their campaign?

Aubrey Blankenship: Sure. Well, I think that the very first step is always having an active LinkedIn page. So as soon as someone thinks about running for office, I would go straight to LinkedIn and make sure it is cleaned up and looks professional. Then kind of maintain and update it as you go along in the campaign process.

I would definitely add that you are running for office, but I would keep all of your day job up there. Keep all of the normal business information there because people going to LinkedIn aren’t necessarily looking for your campaign status; they are looking for you as a business professional and leader in the community. They want to see that information.

I go quite often because it is an online resume. We have access to resumes like we’ve never had them before. Definitely update it with that information, but keep in mind what people are looking for. They are looking for your professional resume. Make sure that that is there really representing that area of your life.

John Tsarpalas: Okay. And every now and then (and this would be your Facebook page, too) you’ve got an event coming and you are going to post something. “We are having a fundraiser at Joe’s Pizza. It’s $25 a person or family.” Should you post things like that on your LinkedIn site, too?

Aubrey Blankenship: Well, I encourage people to think about LinkedIn a little bit differently. With every social network, you want to think, “Why are people using LinkedIn? Why are they spending time today on LinkedIn as opposed to Facebook or as opposed to Twitter?”

So with LinkedIn, people are often looking for career advice. They are looking to see what other people are doing in their field of interest or what their connections are doing in their different professions.

So I recommend that candidates tie their posts to perhaps business in their local community. So maybe they are speaking at a Chamber breakfast. Keeping that as opposed to just a distribution platform for your events. You don’t want to be tone deaf.

John Tsarpalas: Yeah, you want to keep it business and how business might tie into your campaign. If it doesn’t for that event or issue, then don’t go there.

Aubrey Blankenship: Exactly. Actually a really opportunity would be to have a blog on your campaign website and blog about the business. Write a piece about the local business or the state of business and what you want to do for business and things like that. Write some of your past career advice, whatever that is.

So blog about that on your website and then link back to that through your LinkedIn. That actually drives your LinkedIn connections to your website, which is the ultimate goal. And there you go.

John Tsarpalas: Right. I am not a very techy person, so I get bogged down in setting up a website. For instance, I have an email system, but I have trouble making the template up or getting design. So let’s talk a little bit about outsourcing if that’s alright.

I go to Upwork. I am really happy with things there. I have used Fiverr. Upwork used to be called Elance and Odesk. They merged and became Upwork. Should people think about that for when they get stuck? Because I do!

Aubrey Blankenship: Absolutely. You just mentioned a few. There are a lot out there. I personally think the best way to get started is to ask someone you know who knows. So for instance, my sister is a web designer. She is the first person I talk to about anything website related.

So find that person in your life and then really let them help you along the way. That’s the best bet. Of course, Google is your friend and finding the different freelance designers or web hosts.

Even setting up a WordPress template or things like that can be simple, but I am all for having someone kind of walk you through it. If you are running for office, you can get someone to volunteer some of their time to help you set that up.

John Tsarpalas: Right. I want to encourage candidates to think about asking for help. Ask volunteers to take over projects. Even if they aren’t that technically savvy, perhaps they could take care of connecting with Upwork and getting it done through that system. But they do the connecting and take care of it for you.

Aubrey Blankenship:  Absolutely.

John Tsarpalas: As a candidate, and if you are working full time and have a family, you just don’t have time to do al of these small projects yourself. So the more you can turn over to others that you can trust, do it. Just do it. Otherwise it isn’t going to get done.

And it is important. You have hit on all of the cylinders that we are going to talk about in these podcasts in order to win. If you are only doing one thing, it just isn’t enough to win. Although has there been a campaign that you know of that is just purely social media that has won?

Aubrey Blankenship:  None that I have heard of. I’d love to hear about one. We always talk about it at American Majority as the air game and the ground game. You have to have a ground game. You have to be executing the fundamentals of face-to-face contact with boots on the ground.

But the air game can help. That can be your online strategy and your social media networks. I firmly believe they have to work hand in hand.

John Tsarpalas: Absolutely. I started as an air game guy and realized it is all about the ground guy. And then I became a ground game guy who has added the air game back in. When you have it hitting on all cylinders, it just goes so much better.

Aubrey Blankenship: Absolutely.

John Tsarpalas: But you can win an election purely by going door-to-door. You really can. It’s a lot of work, but there are ways to do both. Especially in a tough race, you’ve got to have everything happening.

Aubrey Blankenship: That’s the exciting part about social media. As you mentioned at the beginning of the podcast, social media is relatively new in the long history of politics. Campaigns have long connected with voters through TV ads on one hand and through face-to-face voter contact on the other.

A candidate’s presence online combines both elements. So you have that distribution, but you also have that interaction online. So it’s a really exciting opportunity, even for the local candidate.

John Tsarpalas: It seems to me the next big tool out there is Twitter.

Aubrey Blankenship: Yes, my favorite is Twitter.

John Tsarpalas: Tell me why it is your favorite and how to use it.

Aubrey Blankenship: Sure.

John Tsarpalas: In how many characters is it? Forty or less?

Aubrey Blankenship: A hundred and forty characters.

John Tsarpalas: Okay, or less. No, just kidding. Take your time. We need to understand this. This is important.

Aubrey Blankenship: Well, as we talked about Facebook, I like to contrast Facebook and Twitter just to get the full picture. Facebook connects people with friends and public figures like a politician and causes they care about on that personal level.

Twitter drives narrative. It is critical to rapid response, to breaking news and media relations. You are connected with people you’ve never met, lots of strangers, and people you never will meet. You are connected in a very quick, rapid response way.

Just to give you an idea of how crazy Twitter has become, we talk about 2008 with Obama using Twitter for the first time in a political presidential campaign. On Election Day, there were 1.8 million tweets, which we thought was exceptional. Now on any given day, there are 500 million tweets. So you realize there is a lot going on Twitter.

It can be very exciting. It can also be terrifying if you are not sure what to do with it. But I definitely encourage candidates to consider Twitter. Local candidates, sometimes depending on the bandwidth of their campaign, I’d say that Twitter can take a backseat. But if it is something they are excited about and they perhaps have a volunteer or a family member who wants to take charge of a Twitter account, I say go for it.

John Tsarpalas: Let me throw in here everything online is permanent record. Watch what you are going to say. Watch what you are going to tweet. Keep it positive and just be mindful that this is not something you are going to say and it is going to go away and no one is every going to know about it.

Aubrey Blankenship: Absolutely. We have seen all of those excellent case studies.

John Tsarpalas: So Twitter- you go there and sign up. You create your page with a photo and a header. You need to pick a name. Do you want to use your own name or do you want to use a campaign name for your Twitter handle? I don’t know what the words are.

Aubrey Blankenship: You do know!

John Tsarpalas: Oh, it is Twitter handle.

Aubrey Blankenship: Yes, Twitter handle.

John Tsarpalas: That goes back to my days in CB radio. You had a handle.

Aubrey Blankenship: Fantastic. Yes, pick a Twitter handle. I envy the people with short, unique names because often they can put their full name. For instance, my boss Ned Ryun has a nice, short, sweet Twitter handle.

When picking your name, I encourage people to think about how people are searching for them. So do something similar to that so they can actually find them on Twitter.

I really like to talk about the Twitter bio because that’s a great opportunity to one, allow your account to be found if you use descriptive words in your Twitter bio. Really talk about who you are and what you are running for. Make sure you have your location in your bio and hashtags that you would use.

A lot of people like to get snarky on Twitter and they’ll put something clever and witty in their bio, a one liner or something like that. But it doesn’t really tell who they are or what they are going to talk about.

I always encourage people, whether it is a conservative activist or someone running for office, put a lot of descriptive words in your bio and just plainly explain who you are and what you are going to talk about. So if I look at your little bio, I should be able to know whether or not I am going to appreciate your content and whether I want to follow you on Twitter


John Tsarpalas: Okay. Explain something to me that I didn’t understand. I’ve got my name and people can find me at my name. But then there are things that are hash-tagged. What’s a hashtag doing?
Aubrey Blankenship: Great question. Something that is still puzzling people years after Twitter has been around. A hashtag is basically a word with a pound sign in front of it. So we saw Ted Cruz come out with a hashtag, #makeDClisten!, after he announced that he was running for President. That caught fire actually.

When I say a hashtag caught fire, that means that people who are creating a tweet use that hashtag in their tweet or at the end of their tweets. What it is does is it creates a hyperlink in that tweet. People who click on that hashtag can then see a full list of ever other person on Twitter who is tweeting with that same hashtag.

So it is basically connecting a gigantic conversation topic on Twitter. It allows your tweets to be found by others. It allows you to find other people talking about the same thing. One of the hashtags on Twitter for conservatives is #tcot. You know when you click on that, there is going to be a bunch of conservatives talking about the conservative topic of the day.

John Tsarpalas: Okay. How does someone not get the same hashtag that someone else already has so you are not confusing? Does that happen often?

Aubrey Blankenship: I am not sure how often it happens, but it could easily happen. I encourage people to search for a hashtag before they start using it themselves.

John Tsarpalas: Is that a Google search?

Aubrey Blankenship: You can Google search it or you can simply just search for the hashtag in the Twitter search function in the upper right hand corner if you are using a PC. Twitter has a nice in depth search function as well. You can search for what other people are talking about and the hashtags they are using.

So definitely do your research. For instance, American Majority used a hashtag, #majority, for quite a while. We didn’t really do our research before we started using it. But once we started using it, we couldn’t really stop. But going back you will see that people using #majority were conservatives who were attending our trainings or they rappers.

So if we had really done our research, we wouldn’t have used that since they are two different conversations going on. It is thoroughly confusing if you click on #majority. So right now, the hashtag we are using is #win2016. A lot of conservatives have jumped on that when they are talking about tools and tactics to win next year.

John Tsarpalas: I could see Ned rapping. That might be fun.

Aubrey Blankenship: Oh, joy.

John Tsarpalas: Are there other thoughts in the area of Twitter before I jump to the next subject?

Aubrey Blankenship: Sure. I think the most important thing to think about with Twitter as well as Facebook is that you are not creating your own news source/distribution center. What you are really doing is creating community. In order to create community, you want to build relationships.

This means that you are engaging. You are answering questions. You are following what people are saying. You are liking on Facebook or you are favoriting on Twitter. You are engaging with people. So it is not just you speaking.

That’s the exciting part about Twitter. You actually can establish real relationships just by responding and retweeting. You are really showing people that they are creating valuable content that actually is making your life better and you are doing the same.

That’s the one thing I would really encourage people running for office to do. Don’t just see Twitter as a platform, but really see it as an opportunity to get to know your voters and audience and show them that you value what they have to say and you value engagement.

John Tsarpalas: So it is not as much posting something as it is having a conversation.

Aubrey Blankenship: Exactly. Posting something is the easiest thing to do, so you always have to go back to your strategy. How are you going to show people that you appreciate them?

I did want to mention one of my favorite things for a local candidate to do on Twitter and that’s a Twitter chat. Have you heard of that before?

John Tsarpalas: No, I don’t know what a Twitter chat is.

Aubrey Blankenship: This is something that you can really use to combine the offline, real world with your Twitter account. This is something that you can email out to your audience.

You put fliers out and say, “I am online. I am Twitter and I am going to conduct a Twitter chat this weekend from 2 to 4. We are going to be talking about X,Y, and Z.” You can say education. You can say some local issue that you want to talk about. Say, “Follow me on Twitter. Use a certain hashtag, #askaubrey, during these hours and I will be responding to you. We will go back and forth and have a conversation.”

A lot of people jump on that opportunity to interact with someone, whether they are running for office, an author, or already ran and won. It is just a great opportunity for people to have that back and forth and for you to show that you value that interaction.

John Tsarpalas: And a spin off of Twitter is Periscope?

Aubrey Blankenship: Indeed, yes.

John Tsarpalas: Would a campaign use that? Perhaps you are at an event and you want to highlight that to the people in the world what’s going on. Is Periscope an app? Or how does that work?

Aubrey Blankenship: Periscope is an app and it is an app connected to Twitter. Meerkat is another one. I’ve been having a lot of fun watching the political candidates pay around with both of these.

I consider them a little bit different than the other social networks we’ve been talking about because they are pure distribution platforms. So there isn’t that back and forth. There isn’t that building of a relationship. But there is that incredible opportunity to distribute your information.

I’ve seen candidates go live (they call it go live on Periscope) when they are at an event or they are speaking or doing something interesting. Basically they broadcast themselves to their audience.

I think it’s a great opportunity. I see a lot of candidates just kind of trying and failing and trying again. I think that by 2016 we will see some good strategy come out, but right now it’s more of try and fail.

John Tsarpalas: Okay. So this is not a conversation like Twitter; it is a broadcast.

Aubrey Blankenship: Exactly.

John Tsarpalas: So you might want to do it at an event or you are at someone else’s event and you want to highlight what is going on there and the fact you are there. You would up Periscope so to speak. I guess that is the concept here. You are seeing what is there and you are putting it out to the world.

Aubrey Blankenship: Exactly. There’s also the opportunity to just broadcast yourself in your office talking. You can do that kind of personal level as well. The sky is really the limit. I think a lot of people don’t know what to do with it yet, so I am eager to see what it morphs into.

John Tsarpalas: And that is a video feed, right? Video and audio both?

Aubrey Blankenship: Yup, right from your smartphone. So you pick it up and you broadcast yourself. I’ll get a notification if I am following you. I open it up and see you live.

John Tsarpalas: Got you. And is that recorded somewhere and posted somewhere? Or does it go away and is just live at that moment?

Aubrey Blankenship: It goes away after twenty-four hours if I am correct. So it is a very limited opportunity for people to view you.

John Tsarpalas: Okay. And there is no way to download it or save it. It’s not like you are going to capture the moment as if you were using a video camera.

Aubrey Blankenship: Yeah, I don’t think that your followers can do that. So I am not sure about the broadcaster. I haven’t figured out how to do it yet, but I have just played around with it myself.

John Tsarpalas: Okay. So that sort of stumbles me into YouTube videos. I think it is nice for a candidate to get a little bit of their stump speech recorded and perhaps put it up on their website. Have YouTube hold it and host it and you’ve got a link to your site. Or you can have it there on your site. So people can get a little flavor of who you are. Perhaps record it at a live event.

Do you have experience with that? Or are there other things like that that a candidate might want to do?

Aubrey Blankenship: I think YouTube is great. It’s the perfect opportunity to show people a little bit of who you are through video. We have to remember that YouTube is also the world’s second largest search engine.

So people are of course on Google searching your name. But they also are on YouTube searching your name. You want to be the video that shows up. You don’t want some negative campaigning to show up.

So you have to think, too, what is there on YouTube about you already? What do you want to be portrayed? Create some video about the simple things that you stand for.

I know Carly Fiorina last week really pushed the fact that she lots and lots and lots of video content stating her platform. So that’s how she did it in little clips and things like that. She was pushing people to that. I think that’s a great opportunity for the local candidate to do something similar as well.

John Tsarpalas: Okay. And since YouTube is owned by Google, let’s talk about Google+. Similar to Facebook? Different strategies?

Aubrey Blankenship: Well, considering that this podcast is for the local candidate, I encourage the local candidate to have a Google+ presence, but not to spend a lot of time on it. The main value of Google+ in my opinion is SEO, search engine optimization.

When someone googles my name, Aubrey Blankenship, a Google+ account will come up. So that’s my opportunity to be the first person to explain who I am through Google+. Google of course gives preference to Google+ because it is it’s own platform.

What I tell people is to just make sure you have a Google+ that is working and then perhaps repost content from Facebook, Twitter, and things like that. Your audience isn’t necessarily going to be one Google+.

John Tsarpalas: Well, you right about the SEO, search engine optimization, aspect to it. I have a little video on YouTube called Political Stump Speech 101. When you type in the terms “running for local office” in Google, before I posted it on Google+, you wouldn’t find it. When I posted it on Google+, if you type in “running for local office,” I am the number two hit.

Aubrey Blankenship: There you go.

John Tsarpalas: Yes, Google, I will feed you anything you want. Just keep me on that page. Absolutely, I think that it is why important to do a little bit there and keep them informed as to who you are. They ask questions. There’s Google authorship. Filling all that background in helps when someone googles you. It will help them to find you and put more information up about you.

Aubrey Blankenship: Exactly. I think putting in a plug for Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. I like to show a screen shot of my name when I google my name when I give presentations and the top results. Those are often Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook.

For candidates who aren’t so sure about being about Facebook or specifically Twitter, I always encourage them to think about people who are googling their name for information and the opportunity to be at the very top of that search result with you telling your story, not other people telling your story. It is invaluable.

John Tsarpalas: So the keys are Facebook and Twitter, your own website, and the rest is…

Aubrey Blankenship: LinkedIn. I’d put LinkedIn up there as well. Make sure that’s professional.

John Tsarpalas: Now there’s Instagram and Pintrest and all of that. I don’t see how they are extremely relevant. I can see how they might work for your campaign.

Aubrey Blankenship: I would just put a casual mention that candidates on all levels are starting to use Instagram more. Of course the presidential candidates are all over Instagram. I follow them, but most of the time I am extremely bored by the content they post.

I think that even the bigger campaigns aren’t quite getting Instagram. It is going to take a lot of work and a lot bandwidth. Unless you know that your audience is there for a specific reason, I would definitely focus on Facebook first and Twitter second.

John Tsarpalas: Okay. I know there are systems out there so you can schedule posts and things, such as Hootsuite or Postcron. I know there are a bunch of them. Is that something a candidate needs to think about?

How does the candidate keep up on all of this while meantime knocking on doors, going to events, and working? Does that help? Are there systems that you use? Or is that, again, in a local race just going too far?

Aubrey Blankenship: Absolutely not going too far. I always encourage people to use free resources to help them. They are at your disposal.

But going back a little bit, you talk about just the time element of running a campaign and then the time element of social media. I encourage candidates who are over-extended, which is pretty much any candidate, to have someone help them with their social media, whether it is a family member who is volunteering five hours a week or a part-time staffer or a team of people.

If it doesn’t excite you to be on Facebook and Twitter, that is going to come across. So either get excited about it and/or get someone to help you with that. The third helper would be these free online tools. Absolutely, I could not do my job even as a communication’s director without the help of these tools.

You mentioned Hootsuite, which is scheduling tweets and monitoring what is doing well and what is not and scheduling Facebook. Absolutely utilize something like that.

If it is not Hootsuite, another favorite is Buffer. That’s a free resource that will schedule your post at times when your audience will be more likely to see them. You can see how many people clicked on a link, which will help you know the effectiveness of that timing or that type of post.

You can really get deep into the weeds of analytics if you want to, and maybe that is something for someone who wants to help with your campaign and loves that kind of stuff. Maybe that is something for you to look at the end of every week and just reevaluate. But these resources make it so, so easy to kind of take that next step.

John Tsarpalas: We will have links in our show notes at for this podcast for all of these things. We will have Buffer App, etc. If you are driving or something, don’t stop to write things down. Just come to the website. It will all be there.

Aubrey Blankenship: Great point.

John Tsarpalas: Right, we don’t need accidents for our candidates. So we will have all of those things listed out with links. You can get to everything you need.

Aubrey Blankenship: Since we are talking about free resources, I always, always like to point people to Canva. This is a resource for creating free graphics. We didn’t really touch on it, but I encourage people to show, not tell. Obviously social media and graphics or pictures and images go hand in hand.

We know that people process images 60,000 times faster than they do text. As someone running for office, you always trying to find a way to communicate your message and story in a way that is going to be digestible.

I encourage you to create free graphics that go with your posts, blog posts, tweets or anything like that, even photo editing and creating infographics. Canva really helps with that. So I like to put that out there as a great resource.

John Tsarpalas: There is so much going on in the realm of social media. There is so much that we could talk about. We only have a limited amount of time today in our podcast. Where can people find more through American Majority on these topics? I know you’ve got trainings out there. So tell us a little about that.

Aubrey Blankenship: Sure. American Majority specializes in in-person trainings. You can always go to our website to see if there is a training coming to you or work with us to bring a training to your area. I do social media training and things like that.

We also do webinars. We have webinars right now. I hosted recordings of our summer webinar series, two of which were social media focused. One was about winning and mastering social media. The other was specifically on Twitter, fast track your Twitter success. You can find those at

We post all of our resources online for free because, John, one of the things I really appreciate about your website is that it is all about providing those tools to conservatives to really make a difference and do the most with the resources that they have.

John Tsarpalas: Absolutely. That’s what we are here for. That’s what American Majority is there for. Check out We will have links again. You should also listen to podcast #22 with Ned Ryun, who is the founder of American Majority. He talks a little bit more about the resources there.

We need to know how to get a hold of you. Can someone tweet to you, write to you, ask you questions?

Aubrey Blankenship: All of the above, John. Absolutely. As I said, Twitter is my favorite, so you can always follow me on Twitter. That’s @AubreyNB. Aubrey@americanmajority.orgis my email. Please reach out from me. I would love to hear from you. I am always happy to share advice and hear what you are doing.

John Tsarpalas: Thank you, Aubrey. It is a huge topic with so many different things. People check out the website at American Majority. We’ll be back in the future with some more in-depth chatter on some of these topics.

Aubrey Blankenship: Thanks, John. Great talking with you.

John Tsarpalas: One of the things I love about American Majority is their website. On their website are some webinars. There is a webinar there with Aubrey talking about social media. So if you want some more information or you missed something or didn’t quite understand something today, feel free to go to and check out that information there.

We also always have show notes and transcripts at You can reach me at anytime at

I am also available to come out and speak to your group. I am good at Get Out the Vote, organizing and structure for your local organization, and thoughts on running for local office. I have some wonderful presentations that I am happy to come out to any group of twenty or more.

Thanks for listening!

Aubrey Blankenship: I really encourage especially local candidates to think about their campaign website as the hub. You want to drive that content, their voters, their audience, to their campaign websites.

Think about the different social media networks as the spokes. So they are driving that. With all of it, the wheels are turning and they are gaining momentum. For instance, with Facebook, it can’t be an island by itself; it has to be integrated with the website. You are pointing back to your website. The same thing with LinkedIn.

So that’s really going to inform your strategy. You don’t want to just capture a lot of attention on Facebook and then let it die there. Always, always push people back to your website, your email list, your volunteer and donor pages, and things like that. So that’s a strategy as a whole.

Kind of going back to what I said in the beginning of setting clear, measurable goals for success and then having a plan to achieve those objectives. Always circle back to your campaign website and then go out from there.


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