Hillary Clinton just ceded her Twitter handle to a supporter (and here’s why marketers should pay attention)

Matthew Scott

Bill Clinton’s #askingforafriend quip wasn’t the only tweet to grab the public’s attention this week. Hillary Clinton had a win of her own yesterday, when she announced that she would be allowing one of her supporters to take over her Twitter handle for the day.

Mary Jo Brown, a small business owner from New Hampshire, tweeted on behalf of @HillaryClinton for several hours on May 21. During a series of tweets, Brown candidly discussed her family, her business, and the issues she cares about most ahead of the 2016 election. She even ended the day by posing next to a poster of the famed meme that shows the presidential-hopeful texting with her shades on.

Marketing has always been core to political campaigns, as candidates vie to separate themselves from the field by telling compelling stories. And if Barack Obama’s social media successes have been any indication, digital storytelling in particular has emerged as a key tactic for political hopefuls aspiring to connect with a younger crop of voters.

Clinton’s move demonstrates a powerful lesson for marketers when it comes to winning over media-powered consumers who are less receptive to top-down advertising messages. Here are three things that brands can learn from Clinton's Twitter coup:

When it comes to connecting with your customers, partnerships are the new relationships.

When social media first took off, the word “relationships” was on the tip of every marketers tongue. We defined relationships as having a genuine connection with people, but younger generations are looking for more. They don’t simply want the ability to fire off a tweet to a brand at-will. They want a seat at the table – a meaningful role in the product development and marketing process.

Forging a true partnership with your customers means giving them a voice that matters and a direct path to your research, innovation and marketing teams. It means incorporating their ideas and feedback across all phases of the marketing process, and rewarding them by giving them more access. For large, complex organizations, this might seem like a daunting concept, but fortunately, technology has made it easy to maintain these ongoing connections at-scale. In fact, the hardest step is shifting the approach your brand takes to marketing. Is it about you, or is it about your customers? Are you a closed brand, or are you an open brand?

People-powered stories resonate with younger generations of consumers who trust word-of-mouth above traditional advertising.

Clinton could have told a story similar to the one Mary Jo Brown did, but it would not have made the same impact. In today’s environment, the source of the message is just as important as the message itself. According to a Crowdtap and Ipsos MediaCT study, Millennials trust peer recommendations and user-generated content 50 percent more than they do traditional advertising.

Hearing from a real person is a much more effective (and authentic) way to communicate your brand essence (e.g. what you stand for as a company, beyond the wares you sell). A recent example of this is Whirlpool’s latest campaign – it’s largest to-date – which is celebrating stories from real people to help the brand move away from functional product messaging to a more emotional story about the impact Whirlpool customers are making in the home. (Crowdtap did play a part in this campaign.) This type of messaging would be far less compelling, and far less authentic, if it were coming from the brand itself.

Curation is a marketer’s best friend when it comes to controlling the “chaos.”

While the new landscape is pushing marketers to relinquish some control of their brands to consumers, there are effective ways to mitigate risk without sacrificing the inherent value in giving real people a more prominent role in your marketing. If marketers of the TV era were narrators of their brands’ stories, you might think of today’s marketers as editors in charge of maintaining standards and guiding the overall editorial vision.

When it comes to content generation, marketers can leverage curation technologies to identify and surface high-quality content that can be amplified across paid, earned and owned media. Brands can also partner with expert content creators to shape rich multimedia experiences that connect them to new and diverse audiences across relevant interest groups. These tactics allow brands to give authentic user-generated content a prominent place in their marketing without sacrificing quality standards or veering from their business objectives.

Brands today are faced with a challenge not unlike that of Hillary Clinton and other politicians: they must rewrite their playbooks to reach new generations of consumers (Millennials and Gen Z in particular) who demonstrate markedly different behaviors than their parents’ generation, and are commanding a new kind of connectivity with brands that empowers them to be partners with brands instead of customers.

Matthew Scott is senior vice president of business development & strategy at Crowdtap.

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