Do You Tweet? Mitt Romney Has a Lesson for You

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Over at Slate, a couple of staffers for Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign have revealed an interesting tidbit: Every time the campaign posted something to social media—whether a Tweet, Facebook posting, or blog entry—some 22 different individuals throughout the organization needed to approve the outgoing text or imagery.

“The downfall of that of course is as fast as we are moving it can take a little bit of time to get that approval to happen,” Caitlin Checkett, who served as the campaign’s digital integration director, told Daniel Kreiss, the professor at the University of North Carolina’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication whose paper on Twitter and the 2012 election formed the basis of the Slate piece.

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By contrast, the Obama campaign could tailor its social-media offerings much more quickly to new and ongoing events. While slow Tweets and an over-reliance on press releases didn’t doom the Romney campaign on their own, it certainly didn’t help matters.

And therein lies a lesson for any business or organization setting up its social-media operations for the first time: Too many cooks can spoil the broth. As an example, look at Obama’s digital team, which had the autonomy to post, Tweet, and otherwise communicate without worrying what other people throughout the rest of the organization thought. “[Obama] staffers still worked within the contours of the campaign’s messaging,” Kreiss wrote. “Staffers cite that they were aware of the communications strategy of the campaign, and had an implicit sense of what was ‘on’ and ‘off’ message.”

Of course, most organizations aren’t under pressure to move as quickly as a presidential campaign, and so social-media postings can often undergo a few more layers of review (such as through legal) before they’re released. But no matter what the organizational pace, the lesson still stands: Giving your social-media operations a bit of autonomy can pay off by making social channels more reactive to whatever’s going on—so long as there’s a guide or framework for what’s acceptable to Tweet or post.

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