Mid-Term Elections 2010: Everyone is on Facebook So Stop Phoning

by Marianne Richmond on November 2, 2010

For those of us who have been involved with social media for a number of years, it seems lately like everything social that we have been talking about over the past several years has simply happened overnight. Not only is everyone’s mother on Facebook, everyone’s grandmother is on Facebook and  companies large and small have stopped debating “should we” and are now evaluating “how fast can we.” The latter will be another post. This one is about the recently completed mid term election campaign…the OMG when will it be over mid term elections of 2010.

Every talk show host, politician, and local anchor seems to be “on” Twitter.  Many awkwardly encourage their audiences and viewers to follow them, friend them or visit them in the merry old land of social as if they are not convinced themselves that the place is real. But, just when it seems as if broadcast journalists and politicians either range from openly disparaging new media to non-stop message pushing,  Nancy Pelosi uses Twitter (Pelosi Tweeted for the first time on May 30, 2010) to announce that she would be running for House Minority Leader. And although that wasn’t exactly an open invitation for engagement it was important…as Rex Hammock notes in his post It’s Okay That Tom Brokaw doesn’t get Twitter: “She didn’t first go out in front of a big bank of microphones to tell “the media” and the TV cameras.  First, she just tweeted it.”

So, this alone should speak volumes in support of Twitter and other social media as real, grown up valid communication channels regardless of the scorn of broadcast journalists and New Yorker writers as well as the Kool-aid drinkers on the opposite side of the spectrum who confuse followers with credentials and quantity with quality. Nancy Pelosi’s announcement was made,  not reported, on Twitter….the news about her announcement was reported everywhere. Why do I think this is significant? Well if I were as talented David Armano, I would draw a 2010 version of the  Ripple of Influence visual to illustrate the “path” that Pelosi’s announcement took.  And although her Tweet was an announcement, not an agenda to be disseminated, it nonetheless rippled across the network.

And the simple choice of Twitter was in such sharp contrast to the midterm election campaign that it followed. My personal experience of this election season was old school…..inundated with direct mail, telephone calls and other media screaming at me from whatever broadcast media I encountered.Mark Glaser at Media Shift has an in depth report of the new media political landscape but from my sample size of one observation,  I thought that the midterm elections were notable for the ways that social media “covered” the elections and got out the vote; but also notable that local candidates made such heavy use of telephoning and robocallers, negative direct mail and the worst negative TV advertising that I can recall in light of the seemingly ubiquitousness  of social networks. Does anyone answer those phone calls? If so, is there anyone who was influenced by a robocall?

So, Social Media 2010 was able to drive participation as defined by voting, not by the quality of conversation. The mega money was still spent on traditional media and except for Pelosi’s announcement on Twitter, most political announcements are still made the old fashioned way…with a microphone. However, hold the presses, it was the Tea Party who invented itself using social channels; even more to the point, the Tea Party used social media to engage a discontented niche into a unified political force.  Hel-looo!!!

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