Whether we like it or not, we live in the age of ‘cut-through’ politics, where politicians put their better energies towards what plays well with voters.
We are all accustomed to the fact that our politicians tweet, hashtag and post selfies with the best of us, and implicit in this activity is a belief in social media’s power to deliver votes.
But does it? A closer look at digital sharing might curb one’s enthusiasm for overdoing it.
Social media analysts say actual cut-through from use of social media – or the rate at which a regular post on Facebook, for instance, reaches its intended audience – is diminishing.
“Social media is becoming more expensive,” says social media consultant Jenni Beattie, owner of Digital Democracy and lecturer in emergent media at the University of Technology, Sydney. “You have to spend more money today than you might have done a few years ago just to reach the same audience.”
This has to do with the way social media companies are evolving. Facebook, for instance, is now a listed company, and with that comes an understandable focus on making money through advertising dollars.
But those savvy in digital marketing know there are other ways to achieve this all-important ‘cut-through’ without huge advertising outlays.
The advent of new location-specific domain names in Australia means websites now have the chance to append an address with either a .melbourne or .sydney suffix.
With brands and politicians having to work harder to achieve the same ends with their social media policies, a feature like a location-specific domain can offer a local name an edge when it comes to searchability.
Many US politicians have cottoned on to the power of location-specific web addresses and well-chosen domain names.
The success of President Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign underscored just how powerful a political strategy can be when it marries the ruthlessly local with the digital.
This simple but effective strategy was not lost on Adam Bandt, the Federal Member for Melbourne. He was searching for new ways to connect with his supporters in his inner-city Melbourne electorate when he decided to invest in a .melbourne address.
“Our campaigns are driven by grassroots action across Melbourne, and we feel that having the www.adambandt.melbourne domain will help bring our offline grassroots community online,” said a spokesman for Mr Bandt. “The community sees Adam as synonymous with Melbourne and Melbourne’s values, and the www.adambandt.melbourne domain further connects Adam and Melbourne together.”
Clearly, local domain names are an affordable and effective way to get a competitive edge in your digital strategy.
Ms Beattie explains that the upshot of social media becoming more expensive has been a tightening in the Facebook algorithm, making it harder for a regular ‘post-to-page’ to appear in someone’s newsfeed unless it has been ‘promoted’ or paid for.
She says organic reach, or the measure of page appearances in a fan’s newsfeed, is now down to between two and five per cent, versus around 16 per cent back in 2010-2012. That means, for your regular politician posting a hard-hat or happy snap of themselves on the campaign trail, for instance, there is only between two and five per cent chance it will be seen by its core audience – unless that promotion is paid for.
“That has changed things for a lot of users of Facebook,” says Ms Beattie. “If you are a brand or a politician or a small business you have to have a good Facebook budget now to be able to reach the people you used to reach cost-free years ago. As a result, the rate of investment now in social media is much greater than it has been in the past.
“All the different types of social media platforms – Twitter is the same – have an algorithm component. It’s harder and harder to reach people and you have to have a good budget as well. People can’t just organically reach people like they used to through social media.”
For precisely the same reasons as Adam Bandt MP registered his .melbourne domain name, more politicians in Australia would do well to consider a local domain name if they want to reach out to grassroots supporters, says Ms Beattie.
Nowadays, to run a social media campaign effectively, a politician requires staff to respond to queries and posts almost 24/7, not to mention the outlay on advertising to promote content.
An investment in a local domain name could be considered a “micro-investment”, Ms Beattie says, at least when compared to the costs of true social media engagement.