• Fri. Jul 19th, 2024

How brands can navigate pre-election chaos on social media

The following is a guest piece by Scott Parker, CEO of digital agency Social Factor. Opinions are the author’s own. 

The political divide in the U.S. is well-documented. The Pew Research Center says a growing number of Republicans and Democrats view people in the opposite party as “more closed-minded, dishonest, immoral, and unintelligent than other Americans.” In 2020, we saw how this divide played out on social media, as political echo chambers led to significant ideological segregation in news exposure during the election.  

Now, with the 2024 U.S. presidential rematch looming, brands must be extra mindful of all areas of their social media operation. In navigating the pre-election chaos, brands should place an emphasis on four primary areas, all of which are essential for weathering the impending social storm: strategy, technology, engagement and intelligence. What follows are specific guidelines to help brands avoid the 2024 election minefield. 

Strategy 

For brands, strategy is always the best place to start. Because without it, the hills may come alive with the sound of a social media crisis. 

Start now 

Don’t wait until the height of the election cycle to develop a plan for your brand. Bring stakeholders together now to create clear, comprehensive guidelines and processes. 

Identify risks and opportunities 

Scroll back to 2020 on your brand’s timeline to see what parts of your social media strategy worked (and what didn’t). Then, research current trends to anticipate challenges and opportunities related to the election cycle. 

Dust off your crisis communication plan 

You never think about it until you really need it. But when it’s time to “break the glass” on your crisis communication plan, make sure the instructions are current, comprehensive and clear. Ensure that your brand’s plan accounts for responding to negative comments, misinformation and other potential situations that could arise. And don’t forget to update your contact list to keep your internal team informed of any escalation.  

Refresh channel guidelines 

A lot has changed on social media in four years. Twitter is now X. Facebook is now Meta. TikTok users continue to rise (even as a potential ban looms). And your online communities have changed, too. Take time to understand who follows your brand on each platform and tailor your content with the understanding that some platforms may be more susceptible to misinformation and negativity than others.  

Be aware of the company’s political leanings 

If your company or executive leaders are politically active, it’s important that your social media strategy accounts for their public political stance, campaign contributions and PAC donations. Transparency is key to maintaining trust and avoiding backlash. 

Technology 

Have you audited your systems and software lately? If the answer is no, then it’s time to connect with your technology leaders to ensure your brand has the necessary systems in place for the 2024 election cycle. Much like voting machines must stay up to date to ensure election integrity, so do your social media operations. 

Refine social listening tools

If you aren’t regularly updating your social listening queries, now’s the time to adjust to capture evolving issues, memes and online conversations. By taking a proactive monitoring approach, your brand can avoid potential controversies and anticipate opportunities to capitalize on key moments. 

Optimize moderation workflows 

Similarly, if you haven’t taken a peek under the hood to ensure your moderation tools and workflows are operating efficiently, connect with your team to refine workflows to manage the increased online activity during the election cycle. While leveraging automation can help create scale, remember, there’s no replacing the human touch for complex and nuanced situations that will likely arise during this time. 

Strengthen security 

Small things can make a huge difference. Audit who has access to your brand channels and ensure multifactor authentication and other security measures are up-to-date and working properly. Check that security updates are in place for software, systems, websites and devices. Every brand needs to prepare for potential hacking attempts, especially if you maintain a large online following. 

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