Keeping up with the KRuddashians: A Lesson in Social Over-Exposure


Have you missed him?

Since the election, Kevin Rudd has been uncharacteristically socially silent. With only 6 tweets and no instagram snaps since September 7 – is Kevin Rudd on a self-imposed social media detox?
And are you having #KRuddashian withdrawal?

In what was an epic campaign trail, full of soap opera bravado and social media stunts (such as the infamous shaving selfie), the social numbers behind the KRuddMP social juggernaut were impressive. As I’ve written before in Australia’s Political Game of Thrones: Waging a Social War for the 7 Kingdoms and Social Media and the 2013 Australia Election: And the Social Winner Is …  converting likes and tweets into votes was always going to be the ultimate political challenge.

So with an impassioned social following in the millions, how did Former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd go from Mr Social to Mr Opposition Backbencher?

On the epic campaign trail

A campaign of epic proportions was never a election winning strategy: in fact, the decision to announce the election on January 30 cost both Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd more than their leaderships. Unless you are promoting Mars One – where the actualities of the project actually do run over a protracted period of time – no one ‘sells’ their latest and greatest hits for 7 months.

The Age’s article , How Kevin Rudd’s 2013 election campaign imploded –  gives a terrifically robust account of how this lack of a strategic communications focus led to Labor’s demise.

On the social front, Labor effectively exhausted themselves of content before reaching the home straight. By going socially rogue, Kevin scuttled team Rudd before they got to sea, with Labor being left adrift just out of dry dock, engines failing.

In contrast, the Liberal party’s campaign was short and slick. Their control of messaging from campaign inception was meticulous. Instead of being lured into a campaign marathon, they paced themselves over the duration, let their opponent exhaust themselves and opted for a sprint-to-the-end mentality. By adopting a marketeers approach to campaigning, the Liberal Party delivered a communications master stroke in one short burst across all channels. They didn’t hedge their social bets, and their campaigners consistently stayed on target. This organised and cohesive approach, while not particularly innovative, resulted in a communications strategy that was delivered with precision.

Why social numbers don’t always equate to offline results

For a man with arguably Australia’s most formidable social media presence, Rudd’s numbers should have made for an easy social win. But instead of strategically cultivating hype, Rudd created hyperbole. Just like a Kardashian, Rudd was selling himself instead of his product.
If we look at the HootSuite social sales funnel – you can see the direct correlation between social media and sales. This can apply to any other social conversion activity – from driving memberships to votes; social media is about more than brand exposure. Without a consistently useful narrative, authentic audience engagement, influence and strategic calls to action, your ability to convert social media content to outcomes is limited at best.
By choosing social domination over social strategy, Rudd failed to convert his audience from exposure to influence, through to action. This critical misstep is not unlike what we see with the Kardashian phenomena: where self styled celebrities sell themselves more than the products they are paid to endorse.
Think about it – apart from their own ‘signature’ line of every consumable known to humankind, what third party product can you recall any Kardashian spruking that was a massive success?
Hard isn’t it!
Consider this: the sell isn’t ever focused on the product – it’s focused on the Kardashian. Every piece of copy starts with “Kim Kardashian … then the product” – the product is never the communications focus, it competes for attention.
The Kardashians have made millions out of product placement and promotion, but outside of the US, do marketers see bang for their marketing buck? Arguably not from the heavily discounted Kardashian signature handbags and shoes I see in constant state of ‘SALE’  in stores around Australia. It appears, Australian’s know of the Kardashian juggernaut, but aren’t particularly enamored with their brand.
Similarly, Rudd’s emphasis on social popularity over social strategy left his persona languishing in brand over exposure. His brand eclipsed his politics, and by default- that of the Labor party.  His frequent updates diluted his messaging, and the pace at which he shared soft content created audience social fatigue. By over exposing himself on social media, and accustomising his audience to soft content – any real messaging was quickly lost under an avalanche of selfies, amongst an audience not primed to receive it.
Where does that leave’s Rudd social value?
What does Australia’s most social politician do with his online entourage now?

Unlike the Kardashian’s repertoire for reinvention, any visions Rudd has of political resurrection will only be met with the same social outcomes.