What The Election Should Teach Us About Marketing

I have a political point of view and, yes, I voted.  However, this column is not about politics.  It's not about the sky falling because one party lost nor is it about eternal sunshine because the other party won.  This post is about something much closer to home.  It's about what I learned from the election that I can use to win at marketing my books.

President Obama ran a very smart campaign emphasizing bullet point messaging and images.  His talking points were easy to tweet and the photos were easy to share.  Both he and Mr. Romney could - and surely did - give lengthy speeches.  But President Obama's speeches emphasized those bullet points and then explained the meaning of each.  But you know what?  The meaning didn't matter.  The messaging was in the bullet points.  It was in the photos emphasizing the bullet points.   And those bullet points?  They could all be easily condensed into 140 characters or less.

Yes, America.  IMHO, We've just witnessed the first Twitter Election.

It was impossible to miss the impact of Twitter on this election cycle, wasn't it?  All the news media ran pieces or kept track of what people were tweeting during the debates.  This year, for the first time, most of the media didn't do "man on the street" pieces to get reactions to issues or responses -- Instead, they could and did fill massive air time and ink space (real and digital)  with instant, unfiltered reactions tweeted by people from every corner of America.  Just as easily, they expanded those pieces to discuss the reactions of people around the world.  Twitter is the world without borders.

How did the candidates utilize Twitter?  Mr. Romney's account shows that he tweeted 1,351 times.  Mr. Ryan's account shows that he tweeted 229 times.  President Obama tweeted many, many thousands of times - himself and by staffers.  Mr. Obama has longed used Twitter, and it was a factor in his campaign victory of  2008 as well. Reading the twitter feeds of the candidates shows Romney/Ryan as sending out very forced-sounding and generic tweets.  Reading the Obama account shows timely tweets - keyed to action like urging those standing in line after polls closed in Florida to stay in line until they voted.

Action tweets are apt to be RT (retweeted) many, many, multiple thousands of times.  They come across as real, as making a personal connection.  Generic, formulaic tweets are off-putting and seem forced.  They don't connect a'tall.  If people on Twitter were looking to connect before deciding how to vote - then most of those Tweeps broke for President Obama.

The standard messages went out :  'Exercise your freedom by voting," or "It's election day and we need your support to win.  Go vote - Florida or Ohio or PA or wherever."  (Adding a state does not make the message personal).  The standard patter didn't motivate anyone to do anything.  It was rhetoric - and just as meaningless via Twitter as on a TV Commercial or during a campaign speech. Understanding Twitter gave Mr. Obama an edge.  He and his people understood it well enough to realize that Twitter is a direct route into the eyeballs and mind-space  of the American psyche that no amount of campaign advertising can buy.  Understanding too that the early followers - if continually motivated by those "action" tweets - would spread the word throughout all the Twitterverse gave the Obama campaign the winning strategy.

Smart indie authors could learn a lot from how the Obama campaign used Twitter during this last election cycle.  I'm sure I'm not smart enough to have learned all the lessons at this point, but some of them have already found traction in that twisted space that passes for my brain.  The biggest lesson is that tweeting book links, buy messages and review blurbs is as likely to influence anyone on Twitter as that campaign rhetoric.

To market successfully on Twitter, you don't sell the product -- you sell the brand.

How do you sell the brand? Don't tweet a book link or a review quote --  tweet about your thoughts and your interests.  Tweet your plans for the day, your favorite quotes or links to the fascinating piece you just read about a TV program or a new survey.  Those tweets are more apt to interest someone enough to have them click the link to your profile and follow that to your website, complete with your full list of books and buy buttons.  Why?  Because they're personal rather than forced.

In the Twitterverse, selling yourself sells your work but selling your work sells nothing.  Buy links or review blurbs get tuned out like TV commercials.  Selling yourself or your brand means you motivated a person to click on your profile and go investigate for your website, blog and book links.  Consider this - you're driving down the highway and pass 5 billboards for Miss Grace's Great Canned Corn.  You'll pass 'em and forget 'em.  But if your best friend calls and tells you she served the corn at dinner last night and the kids ate every kernel - you're apt to look for Miss Grace's Great Canned Corn the next time you're in the grocery store.

It's a hands on world in a virtual way.  Motivating people to investigate the crazy duck lady means I interested them enough to make them investigate.  In the Internet age, we're all Sherlock Holmes and Twitter is that call from your best friend.  We sell it best when we sell it least.

To market a candidate or a romance novel in a digital world requires connecting day to day in an up-close, personal and always interesting way.  It's a lot more work than a campaign commercial or tweeting a buy link or blurb, but it's a lot more likely to motivate.  With motivation, the button in a voting booth or the buy button for a QA romance is just a click away....