There’s something deeply refreshing about a social media feed that is unapologetically authentic. Just look at Wendy’s legendary penchant for #shade, or Arby’s knowledge of pop culture, obscure or otherwise, or Ariana Grande’s entertaining relationship with her fans. Authenticity can’t be forced or duplicated from another source. It’s a trait that shows that a brand simply gets it.
Perhaps it’s no surprise that there are certain places we wouldn’t go looking for said trait. Case in point: politics…or so I thought. Enter stage right, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Member-elect of the U.S. House of Representatives from New York’s 14th district. At twenty-nine years old, the surprise powerhouse has not only won an ‘unwinnable’ race, but also stayed unflinching true to her values. Her Twitter is bold as she tackles policy and opinions from both sides. Her Instagram stories are lessons in ‘letting your hair down’, with her mix of live cooking, deep dives into her D.C. orientation, and comparing the Capitol building to Hogwarts.
What can we learn here? For starters, we need to consider the importance of strategy. Alexandria built her entire campaign through social media and aggressive offline outreach. She blended both to create something fresh, relatable and rooted in her position as a working-class woman of color. There are countless other takeaways from her online presence, such as these three which continue to impress and engage me whenever she posts something new:
Whether she’s going head-to-head with big political names on Twitter, or eating mac and cheese with a coffee stirrer while answering follower questions on Instagram Live, Alexandria is bona fide. This isn’t a copy-paste attempt at charisma. It’s impossible not to see how passionate she is about her work, and how delighted she is to share her experiences. She understands her audience, and uses that to lift the veil around politics for them.
Ask yourself, how accessible is your brand? How much of what you say actually reflects your overall purpose? How obsessed are you about landing that next sale, forgoing all else in the process? It’s time these questions were given more significance.
Education is Fun
Congressional orientation is a thing. Go figure. It’s not an event that’s publicly broadcast, or given much thought. Alexandria’s Instagram has changed that, with multiple stories posted, ranging from choosing an office, to receiving special ‘swag bags’, to sharing insight into a congresswoman’s day-to-day priorities. It’s little known tidbits and explanations, and many have commented on how earnestly informative Alexandria is.
Sometimes, we tend to assume that our audience knows the answer. We take for granted that we’re living the industry we’re in, surrounded by a 24/7 influx of jargon and insider quirks. I once worked for a company that has an acronym for everything; my first day there was a lesson in how idiosyncratic corporate can be. Connecting with your audience requires stepping out of that haze, and putting yourself in their shoes. TL;DR – what information is of most value to them, and how can you provide as such in the most straightforward way?
Not For Everyone
Communication can be hard. The online world brings with it different beliefs and personalities that converge and clash. It’s formidable, it’s messy, and your brand will sometimes be smack dab in the middle of it. What Alexandria does so well is provide perspective. She’s true to her message while also addressing some of the arguments around it. Said message won’t be accepted by everyone, and she knows that. Her posts aren’t tweaked to please everyone, and for me, that’s the most notable takeaway.
Some brands want to have their cake and eat it too. Positive comments are all well and good, but one negative comment leads to knee-jerk reactions instead of rationality. More times than not, it’s a matter of information not being readily available, or even the commenter being outside of your focus audience. Rushing to appease them out of fear or fluster sets unsustainable precedents for the future. Say it with me: crisis management and chill.
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