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Four social media guidelines to live by

It’s easy to get caught in the weeds of social media trolls who purposely try to derail the conversation you are trying to have with persuadable voters.

People tend to take politics personal these days. Ask yourself "Is it worth responding to people who are trying to antagonize me?"

Always keep in mind that you aren't trying to win your enemies. Stay focused on winning votes. In this new era of Trump and no-holds-barred social media, remember that decorum still rules and your mom may be reading your Tweets.

When candidates ask us for help on their social media, here are a few guidelines to follow:

  1. If the candidate REALLY wants to be involved: The candidate should answer the easy questions in the comments and direct messages. It’s an easy win for everyone involved, and the candidate scores extra points for being responsive. If the candidate cannot respond, a staffer responds on behalf of the campaign, make it clear that it is a staffer and not the candidate. Either sign it "-Staff" or "This is Ms. Jones' campaign manager..." This protects the candidate from being on the hook for errors a staffer might make in their comments. Don’t forget, the candidate doesn’t have to answer any questions that they don’t want to. Once again, do not get bogged down in long comment chains, and arguments!

  2. Stick to your brand: You have gone to a lot of work building a brand. Don’t lose sight of that brand while responding on social media. Anonymity can make you feel you aren’t interacting with real people, but trolls are actual people on the other end of those nasty comments. Post post fun and personal things that support your brand. If the brand is "family" how about plenty of pictures with the kids and family? "Working hard for you" may show the candidate hard at work. "Community focused" candidates want plenty of photos of them in the neighborhoods!

  3. Hide. Do not delete: Facebook seems to bring out the attacks more than any other social media platform. The worst thing a candidate could do is to delete the criticism of their opponents because that will backfire. Your opponents's supporters will try to post something nasty about you because they are trying to get a response. Deleting is a response, and a weak one at that. Deleting the poster will only stoke the fires of dissent within the original poster and they will come back harder than before. If you want to remove a not-so-flattering post, there is an option on Facebook to hide the comment rather than delete. It hides the comment from the others on the page and the original poster is none-the-wiser.

  4. Put a staffer in charge of monitoring social media: This is also rule 5, 6 and 7. There is no need for the candidate to spend more time than necessary on social media. It is too easy to get caught up in responding to messages and Tweets, and to lose sight of the bigger goal...get elected! It is hard to not reply when the comments are personal about you. But think about how many hours you lost in a comment chain on Facebook or a thread on Twitter. So rather than feeding the trolls, the candidate should post things that are authentic and true. Build your brand and provide real interaction with YOUR voters, not your opponents'.

Everyone is connected to the internet and it is in real time. Regretting a comment or a post five minutes later is six minutes too late. One wrong move and you could be viral news or have just written your opponent's hit pieces against you. Take it easy out there, candidates. Social media is a mine field!

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