Using Volunteers To Leverage Social Media In Your Political Campaign

In the 2012 election we helped Sean Reyes in his campaign for attorney general.  One of the things we did for Sean was organize his volunteers to best maximize his campaign’s presence on social networks.  So why would a campaign even want to train their volunteers on how to use social media?

Once trained volunteers can:

  • Help make campaign messaging more viral
  • Raise additional funds for the campaign by targeting donors
  • Get more votes by reaching out to voters and delegates
  • Help get more earned media by strategically mentioning the press

These benefits are too good for any campaign to pass up.  So let’s explore exactly how to get volunteers to help achieve these goals.

Why Is Viral Important?

Whenever your campaign shares something on Facebook, and Twitter you’re going to want your volunteers to share it too.  Why?

Take a look at the average number of friends each person has on Facebook by age group.

number of FB friends

Now let’s assume that for every Facebook post you share one of your volunteers will share it.  Let’s also assume that when that volunteer shares it one of their Facebook friends will share it too.  We will go five levels deep, and we’ll pretend we have a friend in each age group sharing your campaign’s Facebook post.

This is how viral your message will be depending on the age groups sharing it:



Even if your message is only shared by individuals who are 65 and older it will still potentially reach almost 4,000 people.  The 18 – 24 age group potentially reached a little over 16,000 people.

Getting Volunteers To Share Your Messages

Let’s take a look at how to do this for both Facebook and Twitter.


In addition to getting every volunteer’s email address, your campaign should also get every volunteer to like the campaign’s Facebook Fan Page.

Instruct every volunteer to check the campaign’s Fan Page daily for any new posts.  When a new post is published…every volunteer should first comment on the post, then like it, and finally they should share it with their friends.

It is very important for volunteers to comment, like, and share because Facebook’s organic reach has greatly declined recently.  Getting this initial engagement will make your Facebook posts exponentially more visible.

An additional thing you can do is to create a Facebook Group.  The beautiful thing behind Facebook Groups is that every member of the group will get a notification whenever something is posted by default.  Whenever you post something to your Fan Page…simply open up your Facebook group and notify your volunteers that a new post is available for sharing.  Be sure to make your Facebook Group private so that your competitors can’t spy on what you’re doing.

If you don’t make a Facebook Group then it is likely your volunteers won’t even see your Facebook post due to organic reach not working very well anymore on Facebook.

When really important updates are posted be sure to send an email to every volunteer.  You can get a free mass emailing tool from MailChimp to do this.  Be sure to assign a specific person for managing this part of your campaign.  Giving this responsibility to one person will ensure that it gets done.


Getting your volunteers to broadcast your message on Twitter is extremely important considering that 59% of journalists are on it, and 8% of U.S. adults get their news from it.

Instruct your volunteers to check your campaigns Twitter account daily.  For every new tweet instruct them to reply, favorite, and retweet it.  Replying is important because random observers will feel more inclined to engage with your campaign if other people are doing it.

Remind your volunteers in your Facebook Group that they need to engage with your new post on both Twitter and Facebook.  This will increase the probability of volunteers sharing your content on Twitter.

Just like with Faceboook…be sure to send an email to every volunteer when important updates are posted.  You may even consider sending a text in certain instances.

Targeting Donors

In the 2012 election we drove a bus to all of the lower 48 states and met with over 200 campaigns.  One of the biggest frustrations candidates had was raising more money.

The good news is you can use your volunteers to make this process a little easier through social media.

There is a free comprehensive database that contains the names of everyone who donated to past campaigns on the F.E.C.’s website.

Search the website and find candidates in your state who align with your ideology.  Download the Excel sheet of everyone who donated to their campaign.  Breakup the donation list into smaller lists and assign each volunteer with a specific list.

You can find the donor by typing in a specific query on Google:

“Donors Name” State Social Network (don’t forget the quotes)

For an example press here.


On Facebook…your volunteers are going to want to add 5 donors as friends everyday.  You don’t want to exceed 5 because you will run the risk of getting your volunteer’s Facebook account temporarily suspended.  Targeting donors with mutual friends will increase the chance that they’ll accept your friend request.

To help increase each volunteer’s mutual friends have each volunteer add each other as friends on Facebook first.  I would also encourage them to add every public official as friends too (even outside of your party).

Every donor that becomes friends with your volunteer will be exposed to your Facebook posts because your volunteer will be liking, commenting, and sharing them.

Use this non-evasive approach to build rapport with potential donors, and then contact them through traditional channels.  Doing this should increase your conversion rate when asking for donations.


The same method can be used with Twitter as well.

The biggest difference between Twitter, and Facebook is that you can follow about 100 people per day safely on Twitter.  New Twitter accounts should only follow about 10 people per day until they get over 100 followers.  15% or more of your donor list should follow back each volunteer.  Once they follow back the donor will be exposed to your campaign’s tweets through your volunteer.

The fastest way to target donors on Twitter is through PoliticIt Campaign.  We can take any donor or voter list and find the individuals on Twitter.  We then have a tool that allows you to easily follow them in mass quantities.  If this sounds interesting then send us an email.

Targeting Voters/Delegates

Use the same system outlined for targeting donors to connect to voters and delegates.

You can get a voter list from your state, a private company, or from someone within your party.  Getting a voter list from a private company, or from someone in your party is usually preferred because state voter lists are not as accurate… because people move away or die and the state doesn’t update it as frequently.

Getting Earned Media

We have compiled a comprehensive (hopefully) directory all the major political news sources, and bloggers for every state.  If we missed one send us an email.

Go through each political news source, and use the same Google query that you use for donors to identify the Twitter accounts or every reporter, and blogger.

Break up the Twitter accounts you identify into lists, and assign each volunteer a list.

Have each volunteer follow the instructions contained in this article, “How To Use Twitter To Get Earned Media“.

One additional thing you should have your volunteers do is when they tweet your campaign messages have them mention a reporter in every tweet.

This will send a notification to the reporter, and it will ensure that they see your tweet.  It is important to have your volunteers do this because if a Twitter account sends too many messages Twitter may suspend it.  By spreading out your mentions to your volunteers you’ll be able to send a lot more of them.

Here Are Some Tips For Training Your Volunteers

When we started training campaigns how to do this we ran into a lot of problems.  Here is list of things you should consider so that you can avoid the mistakes we made:

  • Set up a meeting for the training session.  Let your volunteers know that the meeting will be about an hour.  Find out which volunteers have never used Facebook and Twitter.  Instruct those volunteers to show up 30 minutes early.  If you don’t do this then you’ll end up spending the first half and hour going over how to use Twitter and Facebook, and you’ll waste some of your volunteers time that are already familiar with these networks.
  • Get a tally of how many laptops your volunteers own.  Instruct every volunteer to show up with their own laptop.  If a volunteer doesn’t have one then ask another volunteer if they’ll bring an extra one.  Bring 3 or 4 extra laptops.
  • Make sure that the location you choose has WiFi.
  • Set up Twitter and Facebook on volunteer’s smart phones if they haven’t done it already.  Making it easier for them to access these networks will increase the probability that they’ll actually execute the plan.
  • Send an email invite to the training, create a Facebook event, and call each volunteer.
  • In your meeting explain to them why social networks are important for the campaign before you talk about anything else.  Talk about the viral nature of social networks.  It is important to do this step because if you don’t convince your volunteers that this is important then they won’t help out on social networks.

Additional Things

If you’re looking for ways to organize this plan then I’d recommend trying out Google Docs, and/or Trello.  Both of them are free.

Have you used volunteers to help spread the news about your campaign?  We’d love to hear about it.  Please comment below.

(Photo Credit: Flickr via Kheel Center)

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