We all know that “stalking” someone is wrong. So why is that some decent political candidates start taking on stalker-like characteristics when an election is near?

Time to take a step back and realize how your behaviour appears to everyone who’s watching (except perhaps your most loyal supporters, in whose eyes you can do no wrong).

Political harassment

Stalking in its purest form is “obsessive attention by an individual or group to another person. Stalking behaviors are related to harassment and intimidation and may include following the victim in person and/or monitoring them.” (Source: Wikipedia)

In politics, this may manifest itself as a competitive obsession with the perceived frontrunner, your opponent. It happens to many politicians, especially those who are driven to succeed and believe passionately in their cause. But I’m here to tell you that your behaviour will alienate the very people you need to influence–those swing voters who are either truly undecided or who are soft supporters, capable of being swayed in a different direction. That’s because those people do not take kindly to stalking behaviour.

In the heat of an election, it’s easy to lose sight of this reality and get caught up in the shear adrenaline of the competition. And social media is a virtual stalking ground like we’ve never seen before.

So, what does stalking look like in the age of social media? Let’s look at the two biggest areas of social media in use right now:

Facebook frenzy

If you are visiting your opponent’s Facebook fan page and posting comments regularly on their page, or even worse, outright attacking them in writing on their own page, then you are officially a stalker. Engaging in arguments in the comments section of their posts is the ultimate act of futility. Ask yourself what you are trying to achieve? Do you really expect them to admit they’re wrong and you’re right?

What you are actually doing is putting yourself in a subservient position to your political competition. It’s their page, and you are a guest. Put yourself on equal footing with your opponent at all times. Do not accept a lesser position. You should be on an equal level with them, even if they are the incumbent. You are a candidate for their position and need to show that you are just as capable as they are. A better approach is to comment on your opponent on your own fan page and provide links to back up your argument as to why your opponent is wrong.

Taking exception

The only time you would ever consider visiting and commenting on an opponent’s fan page is if they were posting incorrect information about you personally. In that case, it’s probably better to leave the commenting up to your campaign manager, or if you don’t have a campaign manager, a trusted member of your team. That person should also clearly identify themself and state their association with your campaign so as not to appear dishonest or deceptive.

This is a very rare occurrence, but if ever did happen, the post should be short, succinct and definitive about the error. Keep emotions out of it, even though it may be very upsetting or annoying. Don’t stick around and engage in debate. Just go in, set the record straight and make a hasty exit.

Tweet out not at

The majority of your tweeting should be to create awareness of  your own website or Facebook fan page. Twitter is best at getting the word OUT so that people can find their way TO more in-depth information that you have to offer. This is where you build a following. The other most important function of Twitter is to spread your message to a wider audience, increasing your reach via your followers who retweet your tweets.

You can engage a little more directly with your opponent without stalking them. It’s perfectly okay to reply to your opponent’s tweets with a comment, just don’t do it obsessively on every single tweet. You may even want to bring a tweet of your own to the attention of your opponent on occasion by adding their @ Twitter handle to the beginning or end of a tweet. But, again the purpose is not to harass or taunt them. This should be a legitimate attempt to solicit their opinion or request their position on something.

Mischief-makers

Twitter is a truly awful place to engage in lengthy debates 140 characters at a time. Just don’t do it. Arrange to carry on any discussions that emerge via telephone, assuming that both sides want to continue the debate.

Be aware that there are people out there whose only purpose is to draw you into a time consuming Twitter debate just to cause mischief. They may also want to entice you off-line and away from Twitter as a way of silencing you, if you have an opinion they feel is detrimental to them or their cause.


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