Greg Ligon, our guest blogger for the latest Online Community Meetup, is an online communications professional with experience in building a brand via online channels, social media communications and website content development. Learn more about Greg on LinkedIn. This month's event included a candidate for public office, sharing his experience on how to use social media to engage voters. As TechSoup is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, we do not endorse or disparage any political candidate, party, or elected official. 

Two weeks before the 2011 San Francisco municipal elections, mayoral candidate David Chiu and his new media director Candice Dayoan presented to October’s Online Community Meetup in San Francisco on how a candidate can use new media to raise awareness and get the message out, as well as test the message and make adjustments based on constituent feedback.

Raising Awareness and Communicating Out

“Politics is changing,” Dayoan begins. “With 16 candidates running for mayor, you have to stand out.” And that is precisely what Team Chiu has tried to do. They created a campaign video spoofing the new film “Moneyball,” which the Huffington Post San Francisco called “the most entertaining campaign commercial yet..  Chiu crushed this one out of the park."

Chiu was the first to launch a Twitter feed and currently has the most followers amongst the mayoral candidates. He also has an excellent Facebook page and a dynamic website that provides information on the candidate, policy positions, and opportunities to get involved.

The campaign is also on Google+ and uses SoundCloud, a social media company that allows one to record audio messages and share them online. Dayoan explains that SoundCloud is an excellent tool for communicating their message because, as President of the Board of Supervisors, David frequently has to make tie-breaking votes on controversial issues. SoundCloud allows him to explain his positions in short sound bites that can be embedded on his website and shared via social media.

Listening and Gathering Feedback

While communicating the message out is definitely important for Dayoan and her team, it is far from the only way David Chiu is using new media in his campaign. The campaign also places a high value on “listening” – paying attention to the individuals within one’s community – and as applicable to the campaign environment as to any other type of community.

In the corporate world, “listening” generally refers to participating in a community to study one’s audience and learn what types of people are involved (or potentially could be involved) in a community.

In the David Chiu world, it refers to a continuous feedback loop that includes both online and offline channels. The campaign began by hosting more than 30 community meetings over the course of a month. They then used this input to craft “A Blueprint for 21st Century San Francisco.” Next, the new media team put this plan on Chiu’s website, and gathered feedback via forums, Twitter, and live-chats. Any type of organization could do something similar for their cause or to reach and understand their community better.

The new media team communicates this feedback to the communications team, policy team, and the candidate himself. Through this continuous feedback loop, David and his team are constantly refining their platform and message to address the questions and concerns of San Francisco voters.

How do you use social media to engage and advocate for your cause? If you work at an advocacy-based organization, what type of feedback do you collect from your users to help engage them in mobilizing for your work? Share in the comments below.

Photo: Susan Chavez

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