Through inattention and tone-deafness, the GOP has failed to capitalize on a good start using social media for political campaigning, ignored an essential constituency in Florida, and missed chances to address local issues.
These missed opportunities will effect the January 31 Florida primary and have an even bigger effect on the national campaign. The problems:
The candidates aren't attracting new followers.
Likes and follower numbers growth rates are flattening. Worse, the content has become dull and predictable. Republican campaign strategists are ignoring these trends and are spending time and money shouting at each other.
Overall, the Republicans aren't bringing in new supporters for themselves, and they're not energizing voters for Republican causes. No analysts are predicting that the Florida primary vote turnout will be significantly higher than in 2008.
The Republicans appear to be ceding the social media front to the Obama reelection campaign.
Lack of Spanish-language content is stunning.
Florida has the largest percentage of Hispanic voters in the nation and a Spanish-speaking population second only to California's. While the candidates haven't shied away from radio and television advertising en Español, they're not carrying it through to social media.
Mitt Romney has posted a few Spanish-language videos, but they're hard to find. At this writing, the Romney site search isn't configured. You can get a deck of Ron Paul's "Un Hombre de Fe" "family-oriented issue cards." Rick Santorum has no Spanish content.
The Republicans are failing to take advantage of the opportunity to reach out to Latinos through mobile channels. Nationwide, Latino usage of mobile technology, particularly mobile Internet access, is the same as that of the general population. Further, Latinos are more likely to have mobile Internet access in lieu of a home computer connection. As a result, news sites in the Miami area are expanding their hyperlocal coverage for Hispanic mobile users.
There's little fresh content beyond Obama, taxes, Obama, government regulation, and Obama.
Florida's major industries are tourism, agriculture, and real estate. The space industry is in decline with the end of the space shuttle program. What are the candidates saying to the people employed or formerly employed in those industries?
Not much. None of the candidates' Websites include position papers or even significant mention of Florida's major industries. There are occasional news clips about Gingrich's plan for a moon base or endorsements of Romney from various business leaders.
Key Republicans are missing or talking to themselves.
With the exception of Romney strategist Eric Fehrnstrom, campaign managers and surrogates are no-shows. A key supporter for Gingrich, former Rep. J.C. Watts, can't be found on Twitter. Watts's consulting firm, Watts Partners, doesn't have a Twitter account. Republican Senator Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) is frequently seen as a potential vice presidential pick. On Twitter, he's commenting on the price of a banana.
The goal, of course, isn't to use social media. The goal is to gain votes and raise money. The Republicans might make it through the primaries with this current set of bad habits, but they'll be in bad shape to compete against Obama's team in the general election.
— Karl Hakkarainen is an independent consultant who works with organizations and professionals in healthcare, law, education, and social services for whom marketing is a novel and somewhat suspect venture. He applies his 30+ years of connected communications to help them tell their stories in ways that fit within their traditions and the laws of their professions. Karl is a graduate of Amherst College and of Mount Wachusett Community College.
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