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Since January 2019, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) has spent more money on digital advertising ($1.4 million) than any other member of Congress. In fact, it’s not even close. AOC has spent $1 million more than the highest-spending Republican in Congress (House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy), and has accumulated a massive cash war chest of $1.9 million that she can now use to advance her agenda and promote candidates who are favorable to her extreme leftist-socialist ideology. So what can small business leaders and digital marketers learn from AOC?
Leverage social media to take on “the establishment”
Part of the appeal of AOC is that she is a young, hard-charging woman not afraid to take on the Washington establishment. She has used social media to drive grassroots support and momentum, and in turn, has parlayed all this support and momentum to generate “earned media” on TV, radio and print. Name just about any hot-button issue in Washington these days, and AOC is right in the middle of it. And she hasn’t been afraid to use social media to showcase her scrappy approach and spar with Democratic leaders over the future of her party.
Digital marketers can use this same approach to take on “the establishment.” Let the entrenched market leaders squander their massive marketing budgets on TV ads and print ads. Your small business can save money and time by going straight to social media. In the same way that AOC uses social media for her direct response ads, your business can promote products and services on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram at a fraction of the cost of other media platforms. This approach works best with smaller startups trying to win business away from market leaders.
Build grassroots momentum to amplify your message
By building up a massive social media following, AOC is able to leverage the law of large numbers. Even if only 10 percent of her Twitter followers respond to an ad, that’s still 630,000 people who can be used to amplify a message (or better yet, make a straight cash donation). With 6.3 million followers on Twitter, AOC has established the type of critical mass that can be used very effectively to drum up support for other candidates and their causes, or to ensure that a large number of people show up for a protest march. (By way of contrast, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi – who has been involved in politics for decades – has nearly 2.5 million fewer followers than AOC.)
Small businesses and digital marketers can borrow this play from the AOC playbook. Spend time building up your social media profiles so that when the time is right, you have a huge built-in audience that can be galvanized at a moment’s notice. The time to build out a huge following on Facebook or Twitter is not two weeks before a hot new product launch – it’s months or even years in advance.
There might not be an immediate ROI from leveraging either of these two tactics from AOC, but over the long run, it can be very effective (i.e. profitable). Think of it this way – if AOC can get a 10 percent response rate to every ad she runs, and if the average person donates just $15-$20 (which is approximately what AOC is averaging as part of her grassroots campaign), that works out to a huge financial advantage, even after you subtract the cost of running each social media ad. AOC is without a doubt leading in the social media game (right after President Trump), and the only question really is: Why aren’t others following?