Primary elections do not traditionally draw the voters to the polls in droves. Actually, turnout is usually abysmally low and I’d bet that few voters in the city of Philadelphia are even aware that there is a primary on Tuesday, May 19. Will a social media campaign fix this societal problem?
Philadelphia City Councilman Bobby Hendon thought he’d try to bring attention to primary voting through a social media contest. It’s fun — wave your magic social media wand!
He’s asking Philadelphia voters to shoot a 15-second video and post it to Facebook, Twitter or Instagram with a hashtag “#ivotephilly” and vote, and possibly win prizes! Everyone loves prizes!
I am sure someone on the councilman’s team thought this was a good idea, and would “increase voter turnout” as I heard Hendon tell Marty Moss-Coane on WHYY radio this morning.
So What’s The Problem?
There are crickets chirping… Not enough videos uploaded. I found a few videos, appropriately tagged, from real people. The rest of the tagged content — that I was able to find — was from Hendon himself, or professionals somehow related to the councilman, and posts of media coverage of the contest.
There are some slick videos that feature politicians — the councilman, former Gov. Ed Rendell, and current Mayor Michael Nutter and local celeb chef Jose Garces — available on the contest site, ivotephilly. They are all involved in the prizes. (See the website to understand the “prizes.”)
Why Is This A #Fail?
Without inside information, just observing as a social media professional, I would conclude a couple of factors led to the low response (so far).
- An audience has not been built prior to the contest. Social media is not magic, and it takes time and energy to create an audience and keep them engaged.
- Tight timeline. It’s Thursday and the election is Tuesday. From the looks of it, this contest was launched a week ago (maybe a bit earlier) but that’s not enough time for appropriate promotion and spread of news of the contest.
- People are NOT interested. How do you take something that residents are apathetic about and expect them to have the energy to create a video about it? Maybe voting in a local primary doesn’t have enough “oomph” behind it, even without social media contests.
What Would Have Worked Better?
- Create an audience prior to launching the contest. This takes time and effort. Provide real content and work to share it.
- Partner with an existing audience. Find a non-profit or other civic organization and work with their audience. Perhaps there are groups in Philadelphia that would have worked with the councilman.
- Give it a longer ramp up period. Like a fine wine or aged cheese, some products just take the time to come to maturity. Perhaps a longer campaign timeline would have helped.
I don’t want to completely trash this idea. It just had some execution problems. And maybe the entries will pick up prior to Tuesday.
And there are some elements to this contest that were fun and innovative. I mean, come on, who doesn’t want Mayor Nutter to drive them to the polls? I do, and I don’t even live in Philadelphia.