What the GOP Can Learn from the WWE (Yes, that WWE)

It’s not a secret that I’m a lifelong wrestling fan, a fact that is even more evident when you realize just how much I steal from them. “Rated R Republican” is me biting off of Edge’s “Rated R Superstar.” I got the name of the Misfit Politics podcast “D.O.A.” from an old biker gimmick the WWE did, only instead of “Disciples of Apocalypse,” it’s “Disciples of Andrew.” When everyone else is suited up, I show up at conferences in hoodies and comic book t-shirts ala CM Punk. And this week marks the 9th anniversary of my 29th birthday, an expression I’ve borrowed from Diamond Dallas Page and have been using ever since the 1st anniversary.

Stealing from the WWE is the general theme of this article, because when I was asked “What private companies and nonprofits should political organizations look at to see who does it right,” the WWE (as well as the UFC) was the first organization that came to mind.  Their social media game can’t be touched, so much so it was even featured last month on a SXSW panel where it was said, “[the WWE doesn’t] just drink the Kool Aid, they make the Kool Aid.”

For those of you unfamiliar and/or who still think it’s witty to ask me whether or not I know wrestling is fake, here are the numbers:

  • 4.4 million downloads of the WWE app
  • More than 97 million likes across their network of 121 Facebook accounts, with 5.4 billion status views in the last year (more likes than either the NFL or the NBA and all their team pages combined).
  • 45 million Twitter followers across the WWE’s 122 official superstar, corporate, and creative feeds.
  • Revenue up 25% through use of the online store and social media.

Granted, we’re not exactly comparing apples to apples here. The WWE maintains a worldwide audience.  The Republican Party struggles to maintain a national audience.  The WWE have a bigger base of support to build on…but it’s a base of support that has grown because they didn’t just create a Facebook page or a Twitter account. They’ve built an entire network.

It’s not just the corporate headquarters who uses Twitter and tells people when to tune in.  Everyone from The Rock and John Cena all the way to guys in their developmental system has been encouraged to engage with fans through Twitter, and use it as another tool to build their persona, or their “brand.” From there, the wrestlers have carte blanche. Some stay in character (unfortunately), but others engage fans with trivia contests, behind the scenes photos, sharing some of their favorite bands or comics, or just let fans vent over what they think works and what doesn’t.

And they never know what will surprise them.  Last week, the audience on RAW (the WWE’s flagship show) was bored with the matches and went into business for themselves, making their own entertainment with audience chants.  One was where they started dancing and humming along to a new wrestler’s (instrumental) theme , which managed to leave the arena and turn itself into a meme where people were posting themselves dancing and singing along as well.

They connect to their audience on a personal level, and the audience is more engaged as a result. That translates into more revenue through merchandise, PPV’s, ticket sales, etc.  The WWE has effectively taken social media and turned it into a living 24/7 focus group. They instantly know what works and what doesn’t, what their fans are in to and what they can sell to advertisers. They rarely ever don’t know what their viewers are thinking.

Apply this to politics. Think of the WWE as your state GOP and all the elected officials as the wrestlers, or even as candidate and their staff/trusted supporters.  Following the WWE’s model and taking the time to seriously build a network and develop content (and not just set up x to automatically update to y), you can have a constant flow of information: what issues are most important to voters that week, what messaging works and what doesn’t, what candidates/officials are connecting with voters and which ones should consider doing something else with themselves (very important for the GOP), etc.

Also, the bigger network you have and the more engaged the network is, the more money you can raise. Boom.

The private sector gives us plenty of examples to steal tricks from, and the WWE does it better than anyone. If you’re going to steal, steal from the best!

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