Tomorrow morning I’m participating in a panel discussion on how Social Media has impacted politics. The discussion will be aired on the show Flashpoint produced by Orlando’s Local Six News. The conversation will be facilitated by Lauren Rowe and include the head of students for Barack Obama, the head of students for John McCain, the web director for the Orlando Sentinel and myself.
I posted on this topic a few weeks back here, but thought I would elaborate.
Here is the three main ways I feel Social Media has affected politics:
1) Social Media Makes Creating & Sharing Content Easy (This Can Help or hurt a Canidate)
With Social Media virtually anybody has the power to create and share content. This content can be created via a blog, podcast, social network, Tweet, or video posted on youtube…(The list goes on)
With the ability to create and share content comes great power. A publisher has the ability to portray information in anyway they choose and this can really influence the perceptions of those who consume the content.
For example I came across a site that posted a video with a compilation of clips from Barack Obama and various movie clips. You can see it here. It was actually a video that was put together very well, however it was heavily biased and organized in a way that intentionally makes Barack Obama look very bad. Everyone has their opinions, especially bloggers, and bloggers let their voice be heard. This is also evident when the blogosphere went mad, posting about how John McCain said he hates bloggers.
In Social Media someone can take a small mistake a candidate makes, or even take something out of context, create content and send that content viral and influence thousands of people. Speaking one’s mind is guaranteed to us by the first amendment, freedom of speech. This same freedom is often restricted by many countries, for example Cuba who’s general public doesn’t even have access to the internet, you can find more info here.
We as content consumers really have to evaluate the credibility of the sources the content is coming from. Though there is a bunch of great content online, there is also a bunch of crap, it’s not smart to rely on a simple google search or blog post to form your personal decisions.
2. Social Media Makes it Easy for People to Connect with Others that Share their Passions
Social networking sites such as MySpace and Facebook make it very for people to connect with others who are passionate about a certain candidate. They can join online groups or participate in conversations through a social network or blog about their favorite candidate. Barack Obama’s site http://my.barackobama.com actually is a social network. It allows you to register, create a profile, add friends, post in your personal blog, join groups and more.
3. Social Media is Another Promotional Tool in a Campaign Managers Arsenal
There is no doubt that the majority of Millennials and many other generations live, work and play online. While on the internet a majority of time is often spent on Social Networks. With that said it is not surprising that campaigns try to use social networks and social media as a promotional tool. Though I think this is a viable way to increase visibility amongst potential voters online, I don’t think that Social Media is being used to it’s maximum capability by candidates. Social Media was meant to help genuine people, build genuine relationships and have genuine conversations. It is clear that the candidate is not the one managing their social networking profile or blogs. One might say these candidates don’t have the time and that may be correct, but what if they made the time? Franklin D Roosevelt engaged people through his famous Fire Side Chats in the 1930-40’s and really built great rapport with the American public. What if candidates took that a step further? Social Media can allow them to engage their countries people, listen to what issues are important to them and engage them in conversation.
Some Final Thoughts
Social Media is transforming the way corporations interact with their consumers. Many corporations are no longer hiding behind their corporate identity, they have a face and a personal voice. Political figures can and should follow the same movement. They should not only use Social Media for promotional purposes, but also to build relationships which would help break down the barrier that has existed between them and the American Public for so many years.
Just my $.02’s…Feel free to comment if you’d like