Tonight’s GOP Debate and Social Strategy for Marketers

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past four months, you’ve noticed that GOP presidential candidates, specifically Donald Trump, have been dominating the news media. With a field of more than 15 candidates, GOP debates have had the potential to appeal to a wide audience and have also proved their ability to bring in viewers at record breaking rates. Fox News, for instance—the host of the August 6 debate—pulled in about 24 million viewers which is the highest-rated telecast in the network’s 20 year history, according to CNN Money.

Tonight, Fox News rival CNN will host the second of 11 scheduled GOP debates before the 2016 presidential election next November. And, as #GOPdebate begins to trend once again on all social media platforms, marketers are asking themselves, how can we capitalize on this popular and important event?

While taking advantage of trending events is normally a no-brainer for marketers, when something as polarizing as politics is involved, brands are fearful that chiming into the social conversation could cause more harm than good amongst their followers.

Are you looking to capitalize on the millions of viewers who will be tuning into tonight’s GOP debate? If so, here are three ways marketers can leverage #GOPdebate tonight:

Screen capture via Twitter

Screen capture via Twitter

  • Avoid all politics: The best case scenario for marketers with tonight’s debate is being able to leverage a popular hashtag without committing a political faux pas. If your brand deals with fashion, food, beverage or technology, you can easily take advantage of the feel of the “spectator sport” that surrounds these debates. These types of tweets will essentially mirror those you might send out for a major sporting event and will keep you on the good side of your consumer base; especially if you can hit a homerun with a real-time tweet like Oreo did at the 2013 Super Bowl.
  • Make an indirect reference: Whether you’re a Republican, Democrat or a Bull Moose, there is one thing we can all agree on: there will be a debater tonight, for better or worse, that will be caught committing a political gaffe. When this happens, marketers can take the high road, low road or somewhere comfortably in between. Here is where marketers have the best chance of capitalizing on real-time marketing, without worrying about getting on their consumer base’s bad side. Just take Funny or Die’s example from the last debate. It doesn’t attack anyone directly, adds humor to the conversation and
    Screen capture via Twitter

    Screen capture via Twitter

    properly takes advantage of the trending hashtag.

  • Take a political stance: If you really want to take advantage of the GOP debate hashtag, you might need to get a little ugly and take a stand against a candidate’s political views. This might sound like career suicide for a marketer, but that really depends on your brand. For instance, in a recent post we discussed how brands like Ben & Jerry’s are participating in a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) campaign to raise awareness on global warming. Ben & Jerry’s could add to the support of their CSR campaign by taking a stance against any candidate who denies or minimizes the effects of global warming tonight, and reward any candidate who promotes policy to address global warming with positive messaging. If these tweets are crafted with respect to policy and not pundit, brands can gain much from these ugly topics, without alienating their consumer base.

With viewers in the tens of millions, and even more tuning in through social channels, it will be hard for marketers to stay away from social tonight. Before you start hammering away at your 140-character limit, remember to take your brand’s culture and ideals into account. Anything that could potentially be detrimental to your brand is better saved for your personal twitter space.

Have some strategies for covering major political events with real-time marketing? Let us know in the comments below, or contact us here to contribute your own blog post.