How Mitt Romney Upgraded To Facebook Timeline

When we last spoke with Zac Moffatt in June, 2011, the newly appointed digital director for Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign detailed how he would leverage Facebook within the GOP candidate’s overall social media strategy.

With the Republican primary races barreling forward, he took a breather recently to bring us up to speed on what’s been working on Facebook, what we can expect to see as the race continues and the strategy behind the governor’s new timeline page.

Romney was technically the second of the Republican candidates to create a timeline page, although the one that Newt Gingrich launched was on a separate page focused on attacking the opposition. Moffatt said:

Timeline is going to be really interesting because it will move the conversation to a far more visual interaction and emphasize the positives of the campaign. The app boxes and ability to pin posts and highlight stories will really make our Facebook page more dynamic and engaging.

While candidate Barack Obama’s Facebook timeline launched shortly after the layout was introduced, the rigors of a presidential primary race means timeline has been slow to appear on the Republican candidates’ pages.

(Gingrich‘s profile adopted the new feature earlier this month, while his official page has not, even though the former Speaker of the House created a separate page with a timeline that attacks Romney.)

Moffatt described the campaign’s approach to incorporating timeline on Romney’s page:

It takes a while to figure out how all pieces come together. We built third party apps into Facebook and had to determine where they work within the new real estate.

There were strategic challenges but timeline is overall a net positive. The ability to see our changes for a day before they went live was good.

The governor isn’t going to create any response to the attack on him by Gingrich’s Romney Record page, as Moffatt explained:

Politics is different than the corporate world, where there is a tendency to treat all brands positive. Governor Romney’s campaign is embracing what social media should be, which is not one-off pages.

The brief delay in seeing a timeline upgrade on the governor’s Facebook page was, Moffatt says, a reflection of how busy the campaign is during the primary fight, along with the resources at this stage:

Changing to timeline required a determinative approach with staff. We took an inventory of the posts and graphics in the old format, but we didn’t want to start something and then leave it in the cross hairs. Our goal was to build a timeline that was best for Mitt Romney.

Moffatt sees the campaign’s new Spotify playlist and Ann Romney’s Pinterest boards as a natural progression of Romney’s Facebook page:

We are always looking for those components, and understand that apps definitely feed into Facebook’s massive audience. As a campaign we ask ourselves where each tactic falls based on what we want to achieve on the campaign.

[Obama] is already in a general election mindset and is building out these Facebook components. We are going state by state and have to allocate our resources accordingly. Some things don’t make sense given where the campaign is.

Moffatt is confident that Romney’s campaign can go toe-to-toe with the president’s re-election team on Facebook and social media in general, if the former governor becomes the nominee.

In the coming weeks, look for the Romney campaign to introduce new features on its Facebook page as it pivots to more user generated content and introduce more opportunities for people to engage, participate and share content.

We just have to make sure we don’t start a conversation that we can’t finish. We don’t want to talk to people but with people. We never want to launch a feature and then have it not continue.

We asked Moffatt if he was concerned with the campaign’s Facebook engagement figures, which some studies show lag behind other Republican contenders with far fewer followers.

There are a lot of other metrics that define success. My only concern is to be cognizant of what people are saying on Facebook. We have the most engaged groups, and we saw high engagement figures with our recent Birthday Note to Mitt,which literally resulted in tens of thousands of fans signing the card.

The rest are just gotcha numbers. We know who we are engaging with, we monitor feedback and on any given day have 30-plus posts and that’s good engagement to me.

We asked Moffatt what makes a good Facebook page administrator on a political campaign, and he replied:

Someone who has worked on a campaign. The goal is not to have the smartest Facebook strategy but one that supplements the offline strategies of a campaign. Look at ballot initiatives. What’s the point of having fans and then can’t motivate those people to act. Facebook is only as good as the actions you drive them to.

Finally, we asked if Moffatt if he had any Facebook advice for other political campaigns, large or small. He said:

Facebook is the great equalizer. Campaigns don’t have to have a fully developed app system to leverage Facebook. You need authentic content and a system to get messages out. Campaigns need strong engaging content more than anything else.

Facebook is also a way for us to test messages for online advertising and other platforms, because it’s instant feedback that we can incorporate into search advertising. The platform is a great leading indicator.

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