Learn How Governor John Hickenlooper Leverages the Power of Social Media Marketing – And You Can Too (part one)

Preparing to write my last book, Thumbonomics, I interviewed a variety of business leaders on how they had used social media marketing in their businesses. I also had the honor of interviewing someone who attributes a fair amount of his political success to effective use of social media: Colorado’s Governor John Hickenlooper.

In some ways, a political campaign is not that different than a business’s marketing campaign. In business, you are trying to promote your goods and services; in politics, you are promoting yourself and your ideas for the future. In both cases, you need to get the word out effectively if you are to succeed. So social media, done right, can be equally effective for both endeavors.

Gov. Hickenlooper used social media proactively in both his mayoral and gubernatorial campaigns. Here are some excerpts from that interview:

HL: I’m so impressed, ever since you ran for mayor, with what you’ve done with social media. Why did you start with it and did you have any hesitation in joining it at first?

Gov. H: When I first ran for mayor in 2003 I had no constituency. I had never been in office. I had never run for any office. I hadn’t even run for student council. I had to figure out my core constituencies—how can I connect with them?

Since I didn’t have a political constituency built in and I didn’t have a machine or a system, we needed very good TV ads that would be A) funny, and B) broad‑based. Positive ads. We made a big deal about never doing a negative ad, both in the debates and also in our ads.

Since we didn’t have enough money to put many ads on the air, (like the other campaigns did) what we really needed was for people to share them on the Internet. So as we created campaign ads, we tried to create ones that would go viral and that people would send to their own email lists.

There was no Facebook back then, no Twitter, no Foursquare. That’s where we started, way back then.

HL: When did you start with Facebook?

Gov. H: I don’t think we were up on Facebook until 2009, but it grew rapidly from a couple thousand followers to over 17,000.

HL: I see you do Facebook postings on a very regular basis, and I’ve been watching that for some time. Do you have a team in your office that helps you stay apprised of what people are saying in these social media tools—and does that affect your decision‑making?

Gov. H: Absolutely. We certainly listen to the tweets and pay attention to the chatter. The blogs have become huge…

When we did the DNC convention we set up a building for the bloggers. Bloggers couldn’t get press credentials back then. They could not get into the Democratic National Convention. The Alliance Center built a giant tent out in their parking lot—with air conditioning—and created the first center for blogging at a national convention.

It was just a huge thing for bloggers—the fact that we’d respected them and created a space for them made them so appreciative that the city and the convention both got a lot more positive representation than they would have.

HL: I followed a lot of your gubernatorial election via Facebook. Can you speak specifically to what you think Facebook did—was it a compelling advantage for you when you were running for governor? Do you believe the way you engaged in social media really set you apart?

Gov. H: Yeah. I think we got a good start. And it wasn’t just Facebook. We were, I think, one of the first—if not the first political campaign to use Foursquare. I don’t know if you know them, but they’re the location‑based social networking site that allows you to use the GPS in your phone…?

As you can see from this interview, Governor Hickenlooper is open to new ideas, and that gave him the edge. His staff suggested new things, things he personally didn’t know about, but he took the time to listen, and try them out. He thought outside the box, and didn’t let a small campaign budget get in his way.

Do you let a small marketing budget get in your way?

Social media is changing and evolving constantly, so as business owners, you need to stay open to new things. Believe it or not, I still hear from business men and CEOs who scorn Facebook and can’t grasp the concept or usefulness of Twitter. Of course, not everyone needs to do everything — my point is to be open. That way, when you hear a great new idea, you will recognize it as such and give it a try!

Stay tuned for the second half of this interview in my post next week.

And if you need any help with social media marketing for your own company, whether it’s a game plan, setting up profiles, or putting tracking systems in place so you’ll know exactly what results you are getting from your social media efforts – we’re here to help! Contact my office today for more information.

Heather Lutze

Internet marketing speaker, author, trainer and consultant

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