So, we have this great democratic candidate. His name is Gene Stilp. He is running for US Congress in the newly drawn PA-11th District.
He has name recognition as an activist and tremendous cross party appeal. A chance to take a seat from a first term GOP incumbent? Many said, a long shot at best, but we believed it was possible. The first challenge was to win the primary, and go from there.
It was January 9, 2012 when Gene declared he was running, and he had strong opposition with a major head start.
With very little money, very little time, very little traditional or institutional support, how did we pull it off?
First, let me say that Gene Stilp is a great candidate, so having a lot to work with was definitely more than half the battle. How can you not pay attention to a giant pig bus rolling through your town? What we wanted was for everyone to feel that energy, not just the ones who happened to be there waving and cheering when he rolled by.
By engaging the people through social media channels, our audience was just waiting to see where he was going next in the Giant Pig Bus.
Here's a little background on Gene Stilp and the Pig reference:
During the Primary, the goal was to connect with the people. Gene's message resonates and people love cheering him on, but like a tree falling in the forest, if nobody hears it... Well you know...
On Facebook we wanted to make sure the people knew where Gene was, what he was doing, when he was doing it, etc. Facebook allowed us to not only talk about these things, but to show them to people. Pictures of the bus, the inflatable pig, Gene signing a pledge, Gene excited, Gene tired, Gene 24-7. Doing that gave the people a sense of ownership in this election, and that is what they should feel. People are tired of stiff shirt politicians doing and saying the same old things. One thing this campaign isn't is the same old thing, and we broadcasted that proudly on Facebook.
Twitter is a little different. The audience is a little different. Much of what we did on Facebook also made it's way on Twitter as well, but they aren't one in the same - so they weren't treated as if they were.
Twitter is the modern day "hot off the press" tool. Most of who and what lives on Twitter are pundits, bloggers, media, activists, groups, etc. They aren't as interested in knowing about every town Gene stops in or if he is tired. They care more about his positions on issues. They also have opinions of their own, and by retweeting those opinions, when they match Gene's - we are validating them, in a sincere way and they appreciate that. In turn, they are more likely to follow us - which is critical for expanding our audience.
Within a very short amount of time (all things considered) we were able to amass a significant following on Twitter. By the evening of the primary Gene had somewhere in the neighborhood of 335 followers on Twitter, compared to his opponent who had 14.
As stated earlier, Gene entered the race in January of this year. The late start was due to redistricting in PA. We made up a lot of ground fast, and won the primary with a 9 point spread.
This particular news story went semi viral, as it was picked up across the country...
Social Media Is Changing The Campaign Trail
How It Helped Gene Stilp Win the Democratic Nomination for the 11th Congressional District
We believe this seat is winnable in the fall, but we will surely be outspent again. If you want to join our quest to flip a seat from GOP to DEM in November, we welcome the help. Comments are also welcome.
Wish us luck!
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