Romney needs to up social media game to win in 2012

Take it from a long-time marketer, and let me say it in less than 140 characters: The GOP needs 2 wake up & go social if it wants to close its biggest gap with Prez Obama & win the White House.

OK, back to long form. The simple truth is that President Barack Obama is reviving his wildly successful social media campaign of 2008, and making it bigger than ever.

There are 300 people and counting working on this effort for Team Obama in Chicago, with a monthly payroll estimated earlier this year by the New York Times at $3 million. A month.

Recall in 2008, Candidate Obama crafted and executed a social media and web strategy that resulted in his campaign raising more than $500 million and in creating a populist movement, inspired by Obama’s promise of hope and change, which turned voters out in record numbers, ultimately winning him the White House.

In a close presidential race, as polls say this one will be, every component of a strategy must be exhaustively examined to insure that every potential gap is closed. That’s what it will take to bring success on Nov. 6, less than 150 days away.

Social media is the biggest gap for the GOP.

Here are my metrics, which I’ve tracked weekly for more than six months:

President Obama has more than 26.6 million Facebook Likes and more than 15.6 million Twitter Followers.

Mitt Romney has but 1,732, 551 Facebook Likes (every one counts!) and a microscopic 505,690 Twitter followers.

In short, Barack Obama has more than 15X the number of Facebook Friends and 30X the number of Twitter followers as Mitt Romney.

This data has been consistent in providing an indicator of just how lopsided is the race for the hearts, minds and votes of social media citizens.

My friends in the GOP who disagree with me offer a series of “yeah, but?????? rejoinders: “social media people don’t turn out to vote;??? “the metrics don’t measure actual engagement;??? “Obama has his 2008 database to build on;??? “social media will play a very small role in determining the outcome of the election, maybe 2 percent or less.???

Still, it appears from the data we have been tracking that the team in the Chicago bunker is about to write a second chapter on leveraging new media; this time, to win reelection.

While Republicans cannot close the gap in 150 days, they can take a series of actions online if they are to have any chance of making the race close in November.

Here’s my critical list of action items:

Build a Strong Team-Let’s face it, the GOP is being outclassed by a collection of the top minds in the interactive arena. We need to park our egos at the door and put together a Request for Proposal immediately to recruit our own team of Interactive Avengers.

Then, we need to be clear about the team’s collective mission: Analyze the tactics, strategies and programs being executed by Team Obama and craft a strategy that not only identifies the gaps, but is proactive in outflanking them in a measureable way. Remember, it was a facebook founder, Chris Hughes, who was an architect of Obama’s social media online strategy.

Land Precise Counterpunches-Team Obama has a strategy that is focused on sending a series of missives at Mitt Romney with the intent to distract and confuse the candidate and ultimately the voter.

Romney and the GOP seem to be on the defensive on a consistent basis. What’s needed is the equivalent of an interactive scoreboard that keeps visible track of all of these campaign jabs and punches.

It would allow visitors to the Romney site to see a concise data sheet of the President’s criticisms of Romney and a clear explanation by the Romney camp of the truth behind each random jab. It would put the candidate in command of the discussion.

Amplify Obama’s Broken Promises -The GOP focuses on the fact that President Obama in 2008 made promises to the American people that have gone unfulfilled. But, the GOP can’t win its war on the broken promises through stump speeches and random television interviews.

Let’s create an interactive unit that sits on the Romney site as well as every other Republican web site that lists clearly and concisely each of the President’s broken promises.

Build Key Voter Segment Facebook Pages-Pundits have pontificated that Mitt Romney has a “problem with the woman’s vote??? or the “Latino vote??? or that “American voters don’t know Mitt Romney.???

This is easily fixed. Let’s create Facebook pages dedicated to each of these voter segments and sentiments.

Enlist leaders in this effort: Ann Romney and other prominent Republican woman could generate a huge online community of women. Marco Rubio and other Hispanic leaders could lead online discussions with Hispanic voters.

An “I am Mitt Romney??? site could provide visitors a directory of information on where Mitt stands on the major issues and with a forum to “Ask Mitt??? anything that they are confused and/or unclear about.

‘Flood the Online Zone’ in Battleground States -Email solicitations and nightly robo calls from the Romney camp seem to have an almost desperate tonality around the messaging, along the lines of, “If you don’t contribute, we can’t win in November.???

Moreover, GOP advertising dollars continue to pour into broadcast and print media, apparently based on an assumption that this is an effective media strategy in 2012.

The GOP instead should craft an online media buy in battleground states that covers GOP bases in every interactive venue available-news sites, discussion sites, sports sites and any site where there is a small to large concentration of local visitors.

The messaging needs to be hyper-relevant to the specific issues being faced by the voters in those states. The dollars required to make this happen are miniscule compared to spot TV or cable TV buys.

Host “United We Stand??? Social Media Summit-The GOP needs an integrated strategy and plan of execution that provides a consistent and compelling message that can be populated on every Republican website and community page. Its aim: Reinforce all of the reasons Mitt Romney should be the next President of the United States. The GOP cannot afford to wait until the Republican Party Convention to do so.

If he hasn’t done so already, Party Chairman Reince Priebus needs to convene a summit meeting for the top 50 most influential Republicans and their campaign teams. With a concerted and coordinated effort, the GOP can harness the aggregate strength of the Republican online powerbase and slow the freight train that is Team Obama.

There are many more ideas that can and should be deployed in the coming weeks to resurrect an effective presidential campaign strategy within social media and the web.

It is my greatest fear that a combination of arrogance and ignorance prevents guiding forces among Republicans from addressing these issues and tactics head-on.

Mostly, I feel a deep sense of frustration that having suffered defeat in the last election by a candidate whose team understood the interactive tool kit, we haven’ t truly learned our lesson. If we don’t start moving in a new direction soon, history will most definitely repeat itself and we will have no one to blame but ourselves.