Business, Politics & Society

Harnessing Social Media

David Axelrod and Karl Rove

Lesson time 10:40 min

David and Karl explain how essential social media is to modern campaigning. Learn how to use social media to spread your message, target voters, solicit donations, and find volunteers.

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David Axelrod and Karl Rove
Teach Campaign Strategy and Messaging
Renowned presidential campaign strategists David Axelrod and Karl Rove reveal what goes into effective political strategy and messaging.
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Social media was something that emerged at the end of my consulting career. It was obviously pivotal to, uh, the two Obama campaigns. Barack Obama was a natural candidate for Facebook because he represented change, and he was hip and he was young. It was cool to be involved with Obama. He was anti-establishment. He was challenging the status quo, and he was a nationally known figure. And there's a lot of buzz around him. You know, local candidates don't start that way, but you can build steadily through social media. You can do it in part just by the followers that you acquire. You can promote-- you can promote things that will accelerate that process and gain more followers. And your goal is to build a network not only that can volunteer for you, but where you can convey messages. In 2008, we could not have run for president, and he could not have won a campaign for president without social media. We had no organization. We had no money. We really started off with very little, other than a candidate and a lot of interest in that candidate, particularly among the young. And at that time, Facebook was very much a tool of young people. I remember John Carson, one of our great senior organizers, came into us and said, you know, 80% of the students in Wisconsin are on this thing called Facebook. And we can use it to communicate with them and for them to communicate with each other, and this can become a real organizing tool. We had a lot of great young technologists who understood, um, how this tool could be used. And it-- you know, it became essential to our success. By the end of the 2008 campaign, Barack Obama had more-- I guess they called them friends at that time-- than any entity on Facebook. And those people were mobilized. And through that, through Facebook, we were able to organize. All over this country, we were able to acquire volunteers. And the one thing that we did-- and I would say this is still important today, maybe more so-- is you need to trust the people with whom you develop relationships through social media as a campaign to do things on their own. We kind of unleashed people and said, sure, organize in your own community. We didn't have a command-and-control kind of operation. I mean, we monitored what they were doing. We tried to assist them when they were involved in identifying support for us and multiplying support for us. One place where social media is very valuable to a campaign is if you-- if you are attacked, if there is a negative attack, your social media network rallying to your defense is a really important element of campaigns today. It is an enormously positive tool for organizing. It has leveled the playing field. It has made fundraising at the grassroots much easier. And so, you know, if you have that kind of campaign that excites people at the grassroots, you can raise a lot of money in small denominations, and we're seeing that in campaigns all across the country. - It is impo...


What it takes to win elections

David Axelrod and Karl Rove reach across the aisle to offer an inside look at winning campaign strategies. The respective architects of Barack Obama’s and George W. Bush’s historic election victories teach how to develop a campaign platform and reach an audience with consistent messaging. Find the inspiration and tools to get involved at any level, or simply become a more informed, engaged citizen.



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Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars.

Great Masterclass. I learned a lot. I learned things that I can apply in my line of work.

I am more certain I will Be President Hoc Ly Of The United States of America! Because of David Axelrod and Carl Rove! :D Thank You for Teaching! :D

Early on in the course, I wanted more solid examples...and you both delivered. Thank you so much for the patriotic shot in the arm. You remind us all that we cannot fall asleep at the wheel. Democracy is worth getting off the couch for, regardless of party preference.

Extremely informative. Every citizen.voter should take this course.


Comments

A fellow student

Speed and accuracy have always been important in communications. Perhaps with each new media development, we should add integrity. I understand that this course is based on "how to" rather than "why".

Nick B.

Best class so far. Social media, especially Facebook and Twitter are key players in the political scene. Rove and Axelrod are spot on regarding their assessment that both channels are necessary components of a campaign. If your campaign needs help with social media, then let's talk. My company directs digital for political campaigns. More info: https://www.get.effct.org/

Mia S.

A: Twitter is an interesting tool. It is obviously well-used. The President of the United States has made it his own channel. But it's one that's watched closely by journalists, activists, donors, influencers, by opinion makers. Donald Trump has changed the rules of politics, at least at the presidential level, because his great inspiration was: In an era when there's this enormous competition for eyeballs and for attention, if you're outrageous enough and audacious enough, you can always capture the coverage. He dominated the Republican race for president by showing up at every media outlet that would have him, and they all wanted him because you never knew what he was going to say, and he was willing to say it. Understand, he knew what he was saying was speaking to a base - the fact that elites didn't like what he was saying didn't bother him; news organizations were giving him a bullhorn, and he was using it to deliver the message he wanted to deliver. And they were interested in it because it seemed so outrageous that he would do it. So there was a symbiosis that worked for him: he used Twitter - to this day, as President of the United States, understands that he can hijack any news cycle he wants at any moment, simply by using Twitter. I don't know how future candidates are going to behave and handle that, you know - he may be a sui generis, he may be one-of-a-kind in this way. But I suspect - and it you see it in some statewide races, that others are now emulating. When I started, it was a laborious thing to shoot ads and video. When I started it wasn't even video, it was film that you had to cut on film tables. Now everyone is capable of videography, and some of the most arresting video is shot by cell phone. Candidates who are driving around their state and who are sending video constantly of events they just held, interactions they just had, direct messages to their followers - it's very powerful, and we've seen the viral nature of video on social media; in New York, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was an unknown when she started running for Congress. She did one of the most arresting videos that I have seen in politics that was biographical, that explained the nature of her candidacy, that bound her to her community and to everyday people in her community in a way that was irresistible. And that was done on the cheap, I think shot by her own campaign. That is a great opportunity for campaigns that don't have large budgets to get the message out.

Mia S.

R: It is impossible for a campaign to be run today without a Facebook page, Snapchat page, Instagram page, without going on Twitter. So you better have somebody in the campaign who can help manage all of those on behalf of the candidate. And you need to have people around the candidate who are with the candidate who are providing the raw material for those - somebody who can take a picture and feed it - put it online. Somebody who can tape a candidate commenting on an event that they're at and put it online, somebody who can provide all the material that's needed for whatever means of communication you want to have on social media. You also need to have somebody who checks it before it goes on. Because there's a lot of damage done - somebody retweets something that turns out to come from a disreputable source. Somebody who puts up on their page something that is provocative or over-the-top; if somebody has something put up in their name that they didn't see. So it's really important that, in all of these communications, there be an editor, somebody who's going to make certain that before somebody hits that button and puts it out there for all the world to see that it's been approved. You also have to have a plan for this, and this stuff doesn't - it's one thing to have a Facebook page, but it's better to have a Facebook page with a lot of followers. You need to have somebody - a deliberate plan with somebody in charge of it whose object is to do the things necessary, to buy the ads, collect the lists, stimulate influencers to contact their lists and to share material with their lists so that you can build up the roster of people who are Facebook friends or on your email distribution list or following you on Snapchat or Instagram. My wife was involved in an effort on behalf of transportation issues in Texas; a group devoted to building more highways has 175,000 Facebook followers and it took them 6 grand to recruit all those people by sending out ads that said, 'If you want to know more about this issue, sign up.' Well think about that - that is just unbelievable. And they know what district they live in, where they are. They're able to connect them with their state house member and state senator, they're able to mobilize them on behalf of issues,and it cost them all of 6 grand to communicate with and develop a following among 175,000 people. In addition to all the good things that social media and the internet have brought us, there have been costs. It's added to a coarseness of our public conversation. I'm astonished at the things that people seem to be willing to say without much regret on the Facebook postings of public people or worse yet in their Twitter feeds. And I suspect is causes some people to say, 'You know what? I don't want any part of that. I'm not going to run for office, participate in the public dialogue.' I mean, that tweets that some people send out in response to a thoughtful email, it's shocking to me that people can be so rude and crude and disrespectful.

Mia S.

A: Social media was something that emerged at the end of my consulting career - it was obviously pivotal to the two Obama campaigns. Barack Obama was a natural candidate for Facebook because he represented change and he was hip and he was young and it was cool to be involved with Obama. He was anti-establishment, he was challenging the status quo, and he was a nationally-known figure; there was a lot of buzz around him. You know, local candidates don't start that way, but you can build steadily through social media, you can do it in part just by the followers that you acquire, you can promote things that will accelerate that process and gain more followers, and your goal is to build a network not only that can volunteer for you, but where you can convey messages. In 2008, we could not have run for president and he could not have won a campaign for president without social media. We had no organization, we had no money, we really started off with very little other than a candidate and a lot of interest in that candidate, particularly among the young. And at time, Facebook was very much a tool of young people. I remember John Carson, one of our great senior organizers, came in to us and said, 'You know, 80% of the students in Wisconsin are on this thing called Facebook We can use it to communicate with them and for them to communicate with each other and this can become a real organizing tool.' We had a lot of great young technologists who understood how this tool could be used. It became essential to our success. By the end of the 2008 campaign, Obama had more - I guess they called them 'friends' at that time - than any entity on Facebook. Those people were mobilized, and through Facebook, we were able to organize all over this country, we were able to acquire volunteers. And the one thing that we did - and I would say this is still important today, maybe more so - you need to trust the people you develop relationships through social media as a campaign to do things on their own. We kind of unleashed people and said, 'Sure, organize in your own community.' We didn't have a command-and-control kind of operation. We monitored what they were doing, tried to assist them when they were involved in identifying, multiplying support for us... One place where social media's very valuable to a campaign is, if you are attacked - if there is a negative attack - your social media network rallying to your defense is a really important element of campaigns today. It is an enormously positive tool for organizing; it has leveled the playing field. It has made fundraising at the grassroots much easier. So if you have that kind of campaign that excites people at the grassroots, you can raise a lot of money in small denominations and we're seeing that in campaigns all across the country.

Isaiah P.

Ocasio-Cortez had an effective ad. I agree that it was demographically acute.