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Webinar Recap: The Secret of Social Media to Boost Voter Participation

December 16, 2013 9:16 am in Increasing Voter Turnout, Webinar by Michael Tuteur, Votenet CEO

One of the biggest challenges for election administrators is boosting voter participation and increasing turnout. We’re, admittedly, a little bit obsessive about helping our clients increase voter turnout. That’s because the more votes you have behind decisions and candidates, the more those decisions and candidates truly reflect the views of your members and other stakeholders.

Studies show that using social media to spark participation is one of the most effective ways to reach and recruit voters. However, in our survey of associations and nonprofit organizations, social media was way down on the list of election marketing tactics.

We’ve got science behind our suggestion to use social media. On Election Day in 2010, thanks to an experiment run by James Fowler, professor of political science at the University of California, San Diego, in cooperation with Facebook, 61 million Facebook users saw a “Today is Election Day” message at the top of their newsfeed. Some of those users saw photos of friends who had already clicked the “I Voted” button, and some didn’t see any photos.

facebook voter mobilization message

People who saw the Election Day message without the photos and references to friends were barely affected by the “get out the vote” message. However, the voter turnout for the people who saw photos of their friends increased by 2.2% — an additional 60,000 votes nationwide. Even more unexpected, 280,000 additional votes were made by Facebook users who merely saw an “I voted” update from a friend – the “social contagion” effect. Fowler said, “I expected friends to matter, but I was surprised how much they matter.”

Online social networks definitely influence political participation, and close relationships matter the most. People do what they see other people doing, especially people they know. You can use this behavioral principle to your advantage for your elections and voting events.

Besides increasing voter participation, this tactic puts your audience (your voters) to work. Voters do some of the marketing for you! We all know that word-of-mouth marketing is the most effective marketing – take advantage of that.

Retailers, like Amazon, understand this, and event organizers do too. Think of how many times you’ve seen a Facebook update from a friend saying “I’m attending XYZ event” or “I just purchased X.”

Now you can capture this same benefit of social media with eBallot Social Share. When a voter using eBallot reaches the confirmation page, they’ll see a box with social sharing options for Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

eBallot social sharing tool for voting and elections

Once the voter selects an option, other eligible voters will see their “I voted” virtual sticker on Facebook…

Facebook social sharing for elections and voting

…or on Twitter.

Twitter social sharing for elections and voting

And even LinkedIn. Use social media sharing to spread the word about your elections and voting events.

That’s not all! Our new eBallot VoteNow Facebook app lets people vote right from your organization’s Facebook page. You simply attach your organization’s Facebook page to the voting event in the Admin area of eBallot and embed the VoteNow app in the page.

With VoteNow, voters have direct, easy and secure access to your ballot when they’re in Facebook. Considering how many people go on Facebook when they have free time, especially evenings and weekends, why not be there to make voting easy and convenient for them? Turn your organization‘s Facebook page into a vibrant election and voting community.

When you send out election marketing emails, remind voters that they have the option to vote from Facebook too and provide the link to your Facebook page. You can make voting part of the online conversation with social sharing and the VoteNow Facebook app.

Join us for our next Super Tuesday webinar on December 17 at 2:30 p.m. EST. Dr. Melissa R. Michelson, Professor of Political Science at Menlo College, returns for The Messenger Matters: The Power of Email from Trusted Sources to Boost Participation.

eBallot VoteNow Facebook app for elections and voting

New eBallot Social Media Features Offer the Most Social Online Voting Experience

December 04, 2013 9:10 am in Online Voting, Voting Tips and Best Practices by Shelja Purohit, VP Customer Relations

The original voting process in ancient Greece was a social experience.  Athenians and other citizens across ancient Greece came together to cast ballots driven by an obligation to participate that was at the core of the Greek concept of democracy.

Democratic decision-making has come a long way over the centuries with votes now cast via secret ballot and even online voting. However along the way, we have lost much of the participation that was part of the early voting process.  In fact in the 2012 presidential election only 62.3% of eligible citizens voted.

Now, modern technologies such as social media are reinvigorating the voting process and helping drive greater voter participation. New research is being done on how to engage voters and increase participation with social media being one of the best tools for driving Get Out the Vote (GOTV) efforts. (For more on that, read our post on Using Social Media to Promote Voting and Elections.)

This is why we are so excited about the new social media integrations we have introduced in our eBallot online voting and balloting software that are designed to engage voters through social media and use social pressure to drive voter turnout for our Votenet clients.

eBallot’s VoteNow Facebook App provides the most social voting experience ever.

Voting inside Facebook is about as social as it can get.  Now, members and eligible voters can login and vote using eBallot’s VoteNow Facebook AppOur new app puts the entire eBallot process within Facebook so organizations can promote ballots and engage voters directly through Facebook.

Once your admin has configured the ballot, all they have to do is connect your eBallot account to your Facebook page, click a button and your ballot now lives inside Facebook.  Voters can login and vote directly within the Facebook app and there is even an icon installed in the app bar.

The fact is that Facebook is a daily destination for many compared to the web sites of the organizations they belong to. By integrating eBallot with Facebook, your organization can reach potential voters where they spend most of their online time.

Social sharing uses peer pressure to drive Get Out the Vote efforts.

More and more studies are showing how social pressure can encourage others to vote.  We see this “in real life” with the ubiquitous “I Voted” stickers on election-day. But studies of Facebook and voter turnout have shown when that pressure is applied through social media, it becomes an even more powerful tool with the potential to multiply efforts.

“Election participation is a social activity,” Menlo College’s Dr. Melissa Michelson said recently. “Robust scientific research proves that individuals are more likely to vote when they know that their friends have voted, or when they see that many others are doing so.”

That’s why creating tools that allow users to quickly and easily create that social pressure are so important. eBallot’s Social Media Share function now encourages voters to promote their voting behavior (“I Voted!”) through Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn directly from the voting confirmation page.

Voters choose a default message or can post a personalized status.  They also have the option of  writing on the organization’s Facebook wall to spark conversation and engagement among the organization’s online community. All social shares include a link to the organization’s voting portal to drive voter participation.

Reducing friction one click at a time.

Our recent webinar with Dave Meslin pointed out that in order to overcome voter apathy (particularly when it comes to voting), organizations need to make the activity relevant, leverage great marketing and improve accessibility.

Our new social features are designed to do just this. By reducing the friction involved in accessing the voting process and turning voters into your engagement evangelists we now have the tools to overcome that apathy.

Of course this is just the start.  Keep an eye out for more details on these new features and even more tools that are in the works.  Or to see these new features in action, feel free to get in touch or sign up for a demo.

Social Media adds some vibrancy to your Get Out the Vote efforts and increases engagement. (Image Credit: Flickr, mkhmarketing)


Tap into the Selfie Craze with #VoterSelfies

November 26, 2013 9:44 am in Increasing Voter Turnout by Michael Tuteur, Votenet CEO

If you’ve spent any time on Instagram, Facebook or pop culture websites, you probably weren’t surprised when you heard the Oxford English Dictionary chose ‘selfie’ as its word of the year. Selfies are everywhere – friends, family, celebrities, even the Mars Rover took a selfie.

The selfie craze isn’t that new; it’s just a new way for people to share self-portraits. Self-portraits have been around since ancient Egypt, but became really popular during the Renaissance. After photography was invented, it wasn’t long before the first sort-of-selfies were developed. Here’s an early one from around 1900. Wikipedia has an even earlier selection from the mid- to late-1800s.

The self-portraits of our time are found on Instagram and Facebook with the hashtag #selfie — a label that makes the subject’s identity clear. You can tap into your voters’ selfie-taking habit and also increase election awareness and turnout with a #voterselfie campaign.

A #voterselfie campaign would be especially effective with younger generations since a recent poll reported that 30% of all the photos taken by Millennials are selfies. If your voters are students, even better: the Pew Internet & American Life Project says 91% of teens have posted a photo of themselves on social media. 

A #voterselfie campaign also takes advantage of the “social identity” voter mobilization tactic. Behavioral science field experiments have proven that people are more likely to take an action that affirms their social identity as a “superior” or “virtuous” group. What better way for someone to affirm their social identity as a voter than to share #voterselfies with their Instagram, Facebook or Pinterest friends and acquaintances.

That desire to appear as a person of a “superior” group could explain why the North Carolina Museum of Art has collected so many mirror self-portraits (let’s face it, selfies) on Pinterest. It’s also why so many of your Facebook friends share humblebrag photos.

On Election Day in New York City, WNYC asked their audience to take a #voterselfie and share it on Twitter or Instagram. You could do the same with your election or voting event. Ask your voters to share their selfies using a hashtag made up of your organization’s acronym plus ‘selfie.’ For example, if you’re the Association for Voter Selfie Professionals, the hashtag would be #avspselfie.

To ensure a fair election, tell folks they can’t take photos of the ballot or candidates. You want to share that they voted, not whom or what they voted for.

Make the election campaign even more fun with a #voterselfie contest. Pick finalists and winners for #voterselfies in one or more of the following categories:

  • Oddest location
  • Most beautiful location
  • Best homemade “I voted” badge or sticker
  • Best #voterselfie photobomb 
  • Best #voterselfie with friend
  • Best #voterselfie at the office
  • Best #voterselfie with pet
  • Best #voterselfie with original haiku

Elections are serious business. However, they can also be enjoyable, communal experiences that celebrate organizational democracy. Spark interest, spread awareness and increase participation with a #voterselfie campaign.

Photo by Zen Sutherland/Flickr CC license


Increase Voting & Election Awareness and Participation with Your Online Community

November 12, 2013 9:05 am in Increasing Voter Turnout, Voting Tips and Best Practices by Michael Tuteur, Votenet CEO

Ideally, your online community is like the neighborhood coffee shop for your organization. Community members come and go, ask a question or participate in a chat. But just like a coffee shop, lots of folks are quiet. Yet, they’re out there, reading discussions and looking up resources. The common rule of thumb is that 90% of community participants are lurkers – quiet readers.

Your online community is an effective tool for calling the attention of participants and lurkers to your election or voting event and mobilizing all community members to vote.

Keep voting front and center – and close by.

Post visual reminders to vote throughout your community. Provide multiple entry points to your online voting platform so members are only one click away from voting.

  • On the community log in page, ask members to take a moment to click a link to the voting platform and quickly vote before logging in.
  • Display a countdown clock on the community homepage or other prominent real estate. Count down the days, hours and minutes until voting begins and, once voting begins, until it ends.
  • Embed a link to the voting platform in a graphic on the community homepage. Provide additional entry points in headers or side panels on group, discussion and profile pages, including advertising space if it’s not being used.

Put social pressure to work.

Behavioral scientists have proven in several field experiments that social pressure increases voter turnout, especially when someone has made a commitment to vote.

  • Host a “pledge to vote” page in your community. Before the election, display the names of members who have taken the pledge. During the election, display the names of those who have already voted.
  • Ask group or discussion moderators to encourage group members to vote.
  • If you use gamification in your community, provide points or digital “I voted” badges or ribbons to voters.
  • Encourage voters to submit #voterselfies. Post a rotating selection of those photos to the community homepage, if possible.

Make the community the hub for election, candidate and issue information.

We encourage organizations to have a special election page on their website, but if you prefer to drive people to your community, or believe a community page would get more traffic, use your community instead.

  • Post candidate statements (keep them short!), election policies and candidate videos in the resource library.
  • Take advantage of your online community as a platform where candidates can discuss issues and members can get to know the candidates and their opinions. Replicate a town hall: ask members to send questions to a staff contact who will pose them to all candidates and publish the answers.
  • Take the mystery out of the online voting process with an election FAQ, and explanatory videos and screenshots.
  • Create a discussion group in your online community where questions about the nomination process and life as an association leader can be answered.
  • Add a special badge or designation to the candidates’ profiles so people recognize them.

Develop the habit of having a say.

Voting is a habitual behavior. The more people vote, the more likely they will continue to vote. You can encourage this participatory behavior by giving community members regular opportunities to have a say.

In addition to elections, online communities can also be a place to collect opinions and ask members for their feedback on other issues and decisions. For example, run a quick yes/no or multiple choice poll on the community homepage. But, don’t just do a poll for the sake of having a poll; make sure you act upon and/or share what you learn from community member feedback.

For more ideas on using your online community to mobilize voters, check out the report we created with our friends at Higher Logic.

online community town hall brings out voters

Photo by George Miller/Flickr CC license


Use Social Media to Promote Voting and Elections

October 22, 2013 9:02 am in Increasing Voter Turnout by Michael Tuteur, Votenet CEO

Social media use is increasing. 72% of online adults now use social networking sites like Facebook or Twitter. 39% of American adults took part in some sort of political activity on these social networks during the 2012 elections, for example, liking a candidate’s Facebook page, posting a political news story, or encouraging another user to vote.

According to the Pew Internet & American Life Project, younger users are more likely to engage in these activities. Keith Seitter, CEO of the American Meteorological Society, sees this trend with his members. “Social media is making a difference with our younger members. It’s easier to do multiple election reminders on social platforms and to catch them when they’re already sitting in front of a computer – that good timing works in our favor.”

James Fowler, professor of political science at the University of California, San Diego, also agrees that social media increases turnout. “Our study suggests that social influence may be the best way to increase voter turnout. Just as importantly, we show that what happens online matters a lot for the real world.”

The Facebook experiment

With the cooperation of Facebook on Election Day 2010, 61 million users over the age of 18 saw a “Today is Election Day” message at the top of their newsfeed. 

The majority of Facebook users saw photos of friends who had voted in the graphic (above). However, one control group saw an Election Day message that didn’t include photos of friends, and a second control group didn’t see an Election Day message at all.

Researchers analyzed the actual voter turnout for the three groups by examining public voting records. People who saw the Election Day message without photos of friends were barely affected by the “get out the vote” message. However, messages that included photos of friends generated 60,000 more votes nationwide, a 2.2% increase in verified votes.

Even more unexpected, 280,000 additional votes were made by Facebook users who saw an “I voted” update from a friend – the “social contagion” effect. Fowler said, “I expected friends to matter, but I was surprised how much they matter.”

The real klout: social influence of friends

The important lesson here, according to Fowler, is that an “I Voted” button or lapel sticker isn’t what makes these people vote. It’s the person attached to the button or sticker. “Social influence made all the difference in political mobilization.”

Another lesson from Fowler’s experiment: “The online world and the real world affect one another. In this case, we find that this message that started online, that spread online, actually affected real-world behavior.”

How can you encourage your voters to use their online presence to spread election awareness and influential “I voted” messages?

  • Encourage voters to use “I voted” sharing buttons so they can spread the voting message on social platforms. This feature is rolling out on eBallot at the end of the month.  
  • For in-person voting, distribute customized “I voted” stickers at your voting sites.
  • Encourage the use of an election or voting event hashtag on Twitter, for example, #ivotedXYZorg.
  • Post reminder updates about voting on social platforms. Create interesting, stunning, cute or witty graphics that voters will want to share on their social media accounts.
  • If your policy allows it, encourage candidates to use social media to get out the vote.

Social crowd-sourcing builds voting habits.

You can encourage habitual voting by letting your voters participate in crowdsourced decision-making. Use your online voting platform to let them have their say on legislative priorities, conference locations or ideas to improve the organization. Invite them to participate in feedback or opinion polls, or even binding decisions.

Put social media tools to work, such as Facebook polls or mobile apps, to give conference attendees the opportunity to choose the best new product from the expo hall or the best education session of the day.

“Sociologists identify today’s online networked individuals as the participatory class,” says Jeff Hurt, Executive Vice President, Education and Engagement, at Velvet Chainsaw. “If you haven’t made the shift from serving members to involving them, consider this your wake-up call.”

Spreading her influence through social networking
(photo by MomentCaptured1/Flickr CC license)


Webinar Recap: Facebook and Your Voter Mobilization Strategy

October 10, 2013 9:18 am in Webinar by Michael Tuteur, Votenet CEO

Voting and speeding – they have more in common than you think. Of course, one we encourage and the other we don’t.

I realized this during our first Super Tuesday webinar this week with Dr. Melissa R. Michelson, Professor of Political Science at Menlo College. She explained how to use Facebook to increase social pressure, drive voter engagement and increase voter turnout.

First, let’s take a more scientific look at behavior like voting or obeying the speed limit — it will help us understand why Facebook works so well. Voting is what’s called a “normative behavior” — it adheres to certain social norms or standards. We vote because we feel compelled to adhere to an “injunctive norm” – what we’re supposed to do according to society. We’re supposed to do our civic duty and vote. We’re supposed to obey traffic laws.

The “descriptive norm” also influences our behavior – it’s how people actually behave. We’ve conformed to descriptive norms since we were young – just remember your mother asking, “If everyone else jumped off the bridge, would you?” Seeing or hearing about other people voting makes us want to vote too. We’re okay with driving six miles over the speed limit because the people around us are driving at least that fast. Injunctive and descriptive norms influence how we behave.

In 2010, behavioral scientists teamed up with Facebook to study a specific normative behavior – voting. In an experiment involving 61 million Facebook users, scientists used a special Election Day newsfeed update that sometimes included profile photos to find out if people are more likely to vote when they see photos of friends that have already voted.

The newsfeed updates that included photos of friends generated 60,000 more votes nationwide, a 2.2% increase in verified votes. Even more unexpected, 280,000 additional votes were spurred by friends of friends — the “social contagion” effect that happens when users share messages with friends.

Why do Facebook newsfeed updates work so well? Because the injunctive norm (you should vote) combined with the descriptive norm (your friends and acquaintances are voting) is boosted by having an ambient environment where messages about voting keep popping up in the newsfeed.

Facebook “likes” of other people’s “I voted” messages also show up in the newsfeed and contribute to this ambient environment. The more people endorse (or “like”) voting updates, the more voting is seen as a descriptive norm – voting is popular and I should do it too.

How can you make this work for your organization’s elections and votes?

Use social media platforms to post both injunctive and descriptive updates about voting. The injunctive update reminds voters why voting is so important to the organization and something they should do. The descriptive update encourages them to join their colleagues who have already voted – it’s the socially popular thing to do.

Create an ambient environment where eligible voters see messages from those who have already voted or plan to vote. Encourage voters to tweet, share and “like” your Facebook updates about voting. Find out who’s sharing and liking those updates and send them a thank you or give them a discount to an upcoming event.

Share links on your Facebook page to the ballot site, candidate profiles, information about the issues on the ballot and any other events related to the election or vote.

On your ballot, ask voters to share an “I voted” message on Facebook, LinkedIn and/or Twitter. Votenet’s eBallot will have this new social sharing function in the update rolling out at the end of October.

Our next Super Tuesday webinar on October 15 will discuss the days and times that are best for starting and ending ballots. Until then, take a look at your Facebook page and see what you can do to make it more meaningful to your voters. You’ll want to have their attention before your election or voting event arrives.

Photo by Ialja/Flickr CC license

Coca-Cola Integrates Online Voting with Interactive Social Media

July 12, 2011 9:30 am in Associations, Increasing Voter Turnout, Online Voting, Voting Trends by Michael Tuteur, Votenet CEO

America Is Your Park

If you’re reading this, you’re spending too much time indoors this summer, says Coca-Cola. The company is taking its America Is Your Park competition to a new level with innovative options to vote for your favorite American park while you’re enjoying the summer sunshine.

Last year Coca-Cola ran an online voting contest to determine which U.S. parks were the most popular, awarding a $100,000 grant to Bear Head Lake State Park for the top title of America’s Favorite Park after they received 1.6 million online votes.

But this year Coca-Cola is taking the voting outdoors. Voters get one point for voting online, but if they use a smartphone or tablet to check in via Facebook at their park, they get 5 points. Five more points are awarded if voters upload pictures of themselves and their families at the park.

Associations could implement this strategy in their competitions as well. They could use social media check-in technology such as Facebook or foursquare to let voters at a conference choose the best new product from the expo hall or the best presentation in the education sessions.

What other ways can your organization implement more interactive online voting techniques?