Case Study: Developing the ideal communication strategy to increase awareness in a social media platform for Camil Bindiu, candidate for mayor of Cavnic
How do we balance our communications between creating awareness and gaining supporters, between retaining supporters and gaining new ones, between highlighting our agenda and attacking the opposition’s, between attacking the opposition’s agenda and their persona? The answer is doing the leg-work, correctly identifying the voters, their motives, and presenting the right message.
The candidates were:
Camil Bindiu has a fierce desire to make a substantial change for his hometown Cavnic. The sense of fairness, social verticality, and infinite love for this town determined him to run for the Mayor position. All these qualities acquired over time will help him to ensure better city management and a substantial improvement in every sector of society. Among its main objectives includes infrastructure improvement, business environment development, detailed attention to the educational progress of young generations, and last but not least, conservation and protection of heritage assets.
As a person, Camil is one of the most agreeable people you can meet, believing exclusively in doing good, even going as far as completely forbidding any attacks towards his rivals and even aggressive responses to their attacks on him. It took a lot of convincing, especially from the party, before he reluctantly agreed to allow attacks, although he did forbid it again a week before the elections.
Being the person that he means that we didn’t start from scratch, Camil had childhood friends and classmates that represented a small but devoted group of supporters. They were willing to go as far as to openly mock and challenge the mayor, which can be dangerous in a corrupt little town where the mayor rules with an iron fist and just one year prior even went to an old man’s apartment and beat the poor man senseless, caught on CCTV.
The biggest challenge we had to face was an initial lack of credibility, as our candidate did not live in Cavnic for the past 10 years. Without any initial political affiliation, the candidate was totally absent from public life in the city, never having held a position in the public domain.
Our main competitor, the mayor seeking re-election, had the support of the 2 main political parties that governed Romania 90% of the time in the last 30 years. Just as the campaigning started one month before the election, our candidate affiliated himself to USR&PLUS, an alliance forged months before the elections between a party founded just 4 years prior and the other founded 2 years before the elections.
The budget was quite problematic, as the law allows a spending cap for the whole campaign of just 3000€. That includes all costs with services, consultancy, paid ads, print, design, and other staff.
As we decided to focus on social media, we faced our most critical challenge yet: having to create a page from scratch, with no followers, grow our audience and at the same time communicate efficiently to our fans. Having such a big-time constraint meant that every day and hour had to be used efficiently.
Due to the budget, manpower, time, and other constraints, we were forced to go for only one target segment: all voters. This was perhaps the most detrimental thing, as we had no option to circumvent it. It could have been the ace up our sleeves. If not microtargeting, at least some form of targetting by age groups and gender would have been extremely beneficial. Even Facebook did not allow any form of targeting, as even selecting all the people living in the city was a „too narrow audience” for ads to be allowed.
The mayor had a fierce reputation, known for his dubious deeds and selling to himself a large part of the city, he was also not averse to using force, blackmail and direct threats to secure the re-election. Not being allowed by Camil to attack this character initially, we had to settle for illustrating actual city problems would instantly identify the mayor as the culprit, but without saying so, for example, the negative absorption of subsidies and investment capital.
As the budget and time constraints were a major hindrance, we decided to focus on social media, as youth were the most likely to become our supporters, it represents a cheap way to reach our audience and, the key to our plan, our content can be shared much easily.
Being a new candidate coming from out of town, with the raw political party meant we had to bank on promoting „change”. The issue is most people did not want change, as the mayor invested massively in infrastructure projects that look good and crumble after a few years, so we had to create something out of thin air, that was never on anyone’s mind before.
The answer was DEBT. The city had no debt whatsoever on paper, but it had huge contracts that wouldn’t reach the term before elections, namely those huge infrastructure investments. To the economic savvy that can properly assess the situation, the city has debt. To the medium knowledgeable that can read the „Total” on the balance, the city had no debt. So although it was true, we decided that truth doesn’t matter. We started a campaign to aggressively create awareness around the debt-ridden city that may face bankruptcy, but with a twist: we made sure to always use the term „hidden debt”. That way, when the mayor would counter, he would already have low credibility because he can’t possibly prove that something hidden doesn’t exist by showing papers, and also we knew nobody would ever weigh in the word „hidden” and they would just go on to talk about the debt. Surely, as we anticipated, the mayor presented the balance, but instead of trying to explain how the city has debt despite what the balance says, we went for an ad-hominem attack campaign to erase the credibility of those documents and plant doubt in his followers. After all, public contracts are also given to the best company in documents, but in reality, everyone knows how it’s done. It worked like a charm, by the end of the campaign, most anti-mayor townspeople were discussing the massive debt.
Our social media content had to be more than messages, we had to create „shareable” posts, in balance with persuading messages. On other pages, with new accounts, we had to insert discussion seeds, seemingly attacking our client, to provoke an aggressive response from supporters and even those on the fence, going for the online wisdom that „if you want an answer, you don’t ask a question online, you post a wrong answer and swarms of people will rush to correct you”. Sure, these attacks could not be strong or true, they had to be infuriating and whenever possible, be true for the opposition; i.e: „I won’t vote for Camil because this f**** didn’t bring any development subsidies to Cavnic!!!”. When people are presented with such absurd statements, they usually feel a need to defend the victim and to counter the assailant, even if it goes against their preferences.
Our social media campaign was a success. With a little over 2000 voters and ~5000 total population, our posts constantly reached most of our intended audience.
Following the implementation and adherence of this communication strategy on social media, the visibility of each message posted online by the mayoral candidate Camil Bindiu has increased considerably. A large number of users began to interact with the published content, and moreover many of them found answers to questions they didn’t know they had. Last but not least, the number of likes and comments on the page has increased significantly from one post to another.
In terms of votes, Camil received 22% of the votes in this 3-way race but gained a strong foothold and the option to be deputy mayor. There is a big percentage of the population that wouldn’t take the risk in voting for the newcomer but are definitely intrigued and want to listen now.
How erroneous were the ones that initially thought of Camil Bindiu as a joke, since he is now one of the key figures in the city and in a great position for a second round.