Want to run for office… much less run the world? Digital tips and strategies to help you get there.
Running for office is hard. Being a leader in your community doesn’t just happen.
Whether you want to be a local leader, a national activist, a future elected official or anything else, here are some tips and strategies to help you make a difference in your community while preparing yourself for a better digital future.
Building a strong digital presence takes time.
You can decide you want to make a difference. But you can’t just expect everyone to suddenly know who you are.
Whether you are actively planning on running for office, or just looking to take on a larger role in your community, it never hurts to start a personal website or blog where you can share your ideas, values, and goals with your audience.
There are plenty of free and inexpensive ways to do this. And talking about the issues at play in your community can start to lay the groundwork for your future by establishing you as a thought leader and helping you to build a following.
Share your opinions on your website or blog, as well as via social media.
And when it comes to social media, don’t just share your own content. Share relevant content you are already consuming. Read an article in your local paper? See a video on YouTube that changed how to think about something? Share it with your takeaways.
You don’t need a million followers on social media — you just need to start building a following of people who recognize you as a leader in your community.
You can also connect with like-minded peers in the process.
By starting early, you can gradually build your online presence and establish credibility, making it easier should the time comes that you decide you want run for office or just that you want to elevate your own voice on an issue you care about.
Pick issues you care about and become an expert
You cannot be an expert on every issue. If you try (or even worse, pretend!) to be an expert on every issue, people will see right through you.
So accept it. Instead of claiming mastery of every issue, pick a few issues (or even just one!) where you really can be the expert.
I was recently speaking with a newly elected member of a City Council. I asked her how it was going and one of the things she shared with me was how she was trying to figure out who the experts were on each issue on the council. Because she knew that she couldn’t be an expert on everything.
She is a true expert on a few issues. And for everything else, she quickly sought out allies and colleagues she could trust to steer her right.
And she’s an elected official!
If you’re not, no one expects you to know everything about… everything.
If you are sharing hot takes on social media on every subject that everyone is talking about, you’re going to turn off more people than you’re going to bring in.
Dig deep on the issues you really care about and do what you can to find credible voices you can trust on everything else.
No one likes a know it all… but people love an expert!
Pick platforms where you’re comfortable and start to build an audience
When it comes to building a digital presence for your political campaign or future leadership aspirations, it’s important to choose the platforms that you feel most comfortable with.
If you are comfortable on video, consider TikTok and Instagram Reels (and possibly YouTube, depending on your goals). If you aren’t, that’s okay!
Plenty of elected officials aren’t on either!
If you only like Facebook, use Facebook! But really use it.
Create a brand account based around your name and start sharing content.
Engage and dig in. Don’t ask people to follow you (I mean you can, but it probably won’t get you far), rather show them why they should follow you.
Until recently, I would recommend to any aspiring political candidates that they should be on Facebook and Twitter. You go on Facebook to talk to the people and Twitter to talk to the press.
If they had bandwidth and interest, they could also start an Instagram account.
In a day and age where Twitter is imploding and there’s a new social media channel every 10 days, my new advice (subject to change of course!) is to be wherever you are comfortable.
No one knows what the digital marketing landscape will look like in 6 months, much less 6 years.
Find a platform that has a decent-sized audience and spend some time sharing content and engaging.
Once you’ve chosen your platform(s), start building your audience by consistently posting content that is relevant, informative, and engaging. Interact with your followers, respond to comments and messages, and actively participate in discussions.
Building a loyal and engaged audience will not only help you spread your message, but it will also establish you as a credible and trustworthy leader in your community.
Which will help you in general, but especially if you decide to run for office down the road.
Build an email list
There’s an old adage that we shouldn’t build on rented land. In fact, I recently shared a podcast episode digging into this concept.
Social media is definitely rented land. And it’s feeling less and less reliable all the time.
While you should absolutely keep posting on social media and building your digital presence, you should also find a reason to encourage people to join your email list.
Maybe share a weekly roundup of relevant news. Or keep folks informed about a certain topic. Don’t just add everyone you know to your mailing list — find a way to get folks excited to opt in.
You can build it out through MailChimp, Constant Contact or Action Network (which is a powerful tool built specifically for progressive activists, organizations and campaigns). But you can also use Substack or Beehiv or ConvertKit or one of the many, many other email marketing options currently available.
While you’re building out your list, consider segmenting it, based on geography, demographics and/or interests. This is quite easy to do in some platforms (like MailChimp) and all but impossible to do in some (like Substack).
Doing so has a lot of benefits — you can email people on different issues based on their interests, or with different calls to action based on where they live.
But if you can’t segment, that’s not a reason not to build.
Growing a list today will help you 10 fold if should you ultimately decide to run for office.
Show up IRL
It’s great to be a leader on social media. But if you want to run for office, you also have to show up sometimes IRL (in real life).
Find events and town halls with local elected officials and attend them. If the local police or fire chief is hosting a Q and A, go! Join the local chapter of your democratic party, or find a different political organization (or 10!) that you can get active in.
People will trust you a lot more should you decide to run for office, if you’ve been showing up and getting involved.
Show people what you can do
Find projects you can take on and show people what you can do.
You can start a tree-planting campaign and make great things happen in your community. Or you can raise money for a worthy cause. Or you can volunteer with a local organization and show folks what you can do.
You don’t need to be wealthy to make a difference. Find a way to organize around an issue you care about.
Show your community who you are. It’s not easy, but it’s important.
Ready to run for office? Or to run the world?
Doing all of the above won’t guarantee you a path to the presidency. But these digital tips and strategies should help set you up on a path to becoming a leader in your community.
Stop delaying and find your passion and your voice. And then get out there and get ready to run the world!
Looking for help build out your digital presence or launching your political campaign? Let’s chat! My team and I help progressive campaigns, brands and organizations ramp up their digital programs and win the internet!
And check out my podcast, Hello Merge Tag, which covers social media, politics and where they intersect. You can stream all episodes at HelloMergeTag.com or wherever you stream podcasts.
Good luck and keep in touch! We’re all rooting for you!!