The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

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March 29, 2014

Social media changing political campaigns

JOPLIN, Mo. — The days of kissing babies and canvassing neighborhoods from door to door may have gone the way of the rotary-dial phone and “I Like Ike” campaign buttons.

This is the era of social media, when Facebook, Twitter and other technology-based platforms are this era’s answer to the whistle-stop campaigns of yesteryear, but the goal remains the same: Get out the name and message to as many people as possible.

The Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce’s Young Professionals Network has been using its Facebook page — www.facebook. com/joplinypn — to promote the curbside recycling effort the group helped get on the April 8 ballot.

The page has nearly 700 followers and regularly features posts about the issue, addressing questions of costs, for example, possible impact and other details. Posts include links to newspaper articles, editorials and letters to the editor, as well as the promotion of upcoming events such as fundraisers and television news segments — even a link to an online T-shirt order form.

“We reach a lot of people in social media, and a lot are those we don’t touch in some of our more traditional methods — the younger demographic,” Kirstie Smith, the chamber’s communications director, said of using Facebook. “We’re all tied to our phones these days, we all want our information fast, and social media is definitely a way to get it out fast.”

“We also get some level of engagement with it — not a lot of conversation, per se, but we know people are looking and sharing based on page insights,” Smith said, referring to the ability of a Facebook page administrator to track how many views, likes and shares a post has had, as well as user demographics.

Social media has another advantage: It’s free.

“It’s difficult to get donations because we aren’t a candidate, so we don’t have a big budget,” said Katrina Richards, a member of the Young Professionals Network who helps administer the group’s Facebook page.

The group has chosen to “boost” posts on Facebook, however, for as little as $5 or $10, which gives them a reach of several thousand more people.

“We’ve also used another popular trend on Facebook now, which are memes,” Richards said. “A local photographer volunteered to take photos of the baby of one of our members that we then use to create them. We are actively looking for things on the Internet we can share, and we schedule them to go a week at a time.”

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