The importance of social networking services in politics and business cannot be overrated. OK, everything can be overrated. Even God.
However, from where we sit, the praise of Howard Dean’s “use of the internet!” to raise money seems pathetically antiquated. Blogs and social networks like facebook, twitter, and linked-in have become hugely influential in marketing candidates, as well as organizing supporters for campaigns. A campaign that neglects such tools is either irresponsible or has a comfortable enough lead to not bother.
Nowhere is the importance of open internet dialogue better displayed than in local politics. Ignored almost entirely by television and given only cursory attention by dying local newspapers, local pols often receive the most scrutiny from local blogs and other online discussion forums. Like I’ve written before, there is simply no better way to find out what happened at a City Council meeting than to read Brenda Konkel’s blog. Nowhere are issues of student government discussed more intensely than on the Critical Badger. In fact, the best analysis of local government from the local papers often comes on their blogs – which are usually entrusted to a recent college grad with a good understanding of the internets. Kristin Czubkowski at the Cap Times would be case and point, as would Bassey Etim, a former Herald editor who was recruited by the New York Times to work on their caucus blog.
Moreover, the social networks make it so much easier to market blogs and issues. Setting up a twitter and facebook account for the Sconz was easily the most productive decision I’ve made in getting traffic to this blog. While simply putting all my updates on facebook isn’t as helpful as say, a link from a big blogger, it helps to keep people in touch with the blog, even if they don’t click every time or visit every day. Simply claiming to write about local issues has gained me (very theoretical) followers from Madison lobbyists to gubernatorial candidates. And yes, unless I get a follow from Barbara Lawton, Jim Doyle, or Scott Walker, I will be forced to lend my extraordinarily heavy weight to Mark Neumann.
So it was good to see the Cap Times do a profile on the issue, discussing the implications on next year’s governor’s race.
“Around 11 in the morning, Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker got online and did what his gubernatorial campaign manager had asked him to do several times a day. He reached out to his political supporters with a message that was simultaneously posted on his Twitter and Facebook accounts.”
The Democratic Party of Wisconsin, under new young leadership, has pushed aggressively into social media as well, adding Sam Roecker, a UW student and facebook friend of the Sconz, as a staff member specializing in social networks. Perhaps one of the most visible things Roecker did was create a youtube video for the party convention. Youtube is incredibly important – 15% of ALL internet traffic at any given time is on youtube.
The next step will be the creation of networks specifically for politicians, campaign workers and activists. Services like “ning” already allow people to create their own networks – for a field or cause as specific as transportation, human services or sex toys. I haven’t actually discovered the sex toys one yet.
What these services do is merely expand what the communications revolution started with the telephone, the radio and the television. They make the country and the world smaller. They will allow campaigns to have a larger pool of applicants and will open a whole nation of campaigns up to young activists and consultants.