By Mary C. Long, Chief Ghost, Digital Media Ghost
Smart businesses know that perception is everything – so do smart politicians. And with news sites becoming less substance and (alarmingly) partisan, offering angles better suited for the entertainment sites they compete with, successful politicians know that an exceptional online presence is key to getting elected today. So are ratings. Donald Trump has both.
Let’s talk ratings for a moment, and what drives those ratings: word of mouth. You know it’s the best marketing bang for your buck, and if you don’t, you’re new to the game.
Ever heard of Etsy? To put it simply, it’s an online craft fair that grew to be worth $195.6 million in ten years, thanks to targeted word of mouth, know in the industry as ‘referral marketing.’ It built “a peer to-peer ecommerce website, with over 54 million registered members, ” carving a super-successful niche in spite of having the likes of Amazon and eBay as competitors.
And politics runs on referral marketing as well.
Online access to everything immediately offers heightened awareness of social issues, but we’re so inundated with data that we’ve become sloppy, digging only as deep as page one (maybe two) of our algorithmically biased search results. And the information we find both fuels our outrage and comforts us. The world is as we’ve come to know and expect. Too bad it’s a world that’s perceived in starkly different terms, depending on which of the two major political parties one associates with. The (mis)information war in the United States is very real.
And now, according to a Pew report, in “2014 research revealed that nearly half of Web-using adults report getting news about politics and government in the past week on Facebook, a platform where influence is driven to a strong degree by friends and algorithms.” More algorithms, more results driven by previous results. So if you really think your political opinions AREN’T manipulated by what you’re reading on Facebook, you’re likely fooling yourself.
Word-of-mouth is the best advertising around and partisan political posts dominate much of today’s conversation on social media, particularly around election time.
And now for the kicker: It’s exactly why you’re seeing so many posts analyzing Trump’s SNL performance. As Entertainment Weekly reports, “according to NBC, SNL had a whopping 6.6 household rating on Saturday night, easily beating the season’s previous high: the 41st season premiere last month, hosted by Miley Cyrus and with a guest appearance by none other than … Hillary Clinton. In fact, Trump’s overnight rating was 47 percent higher than the Miley/Hillary episode.”
Ratings are no small concern for either camp and you can bet Hillary’s spin machine is eagerly awaiting the next viral opportunity to even out those exposure odds. Whoever owns the conversation on a given day has more opportunity to shape public perception.
Sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it? But just ask any political strategist, or even President Obama – he’s become a pro at it.
As the first president of the social media age, his head of the White House Office of Public Engagement understands the importance of digital strategy, meeting with online stars, “mostly young, video-sharing entrepreneurs with large niche audiences and powerful personal connections to their millions of subscribers — [as] part of a robust online and social media culture at the White House that is likely to forever change the way American presidents relate to the public.”
And isn’t that what we all wanted – unprecedented access, limited to sound bytes so we can still speed along with our busy lives? It’s certainly a drumbeat we’ve all been marching to for the past few years.
We’ve allowed genuine news sites (and journalistic integrity, along with it) to die, as we’ve become increasingly lazy and our attention spans have dwindled. Our complacency and acceptance of these algorithms and the predictably packaged info they provide, while shouting about the “sheep” on the other side is both sad and insane.
Our next President likely won’t be the best man or woman for the job, it will be the person with the best spin – as the two front runners from either side of the aisle (Trump and Clinton) so clearly prove.
So do Trump’s SNL ratings matter, and could they help him win? You can bet your favorite kitten meme on it!
About the Author: Mary Long is Chief Ghost at Digital Media Ghost, where she’s been scaring up traffic for websites, ghostwriting and teaching clients how to “do” online since 2010. Named to Kred’s Top 50 Social Media Bloggers, a Leading PR Pro by Entrepreneur Magazine and an Expert Marketer by Inc Magazine, Mary knows how to find – and get you noticed by – your target audience.