Social Media Politics? Experts Discuss Twitter and Facebook Strategies
Matthew C. Nisbet, Ph.D. is Associate Professor of Communication Studies, Public Policy, and Urban Affairs at Northeastern University. Nisbet studies the role of communication and advocacy in policymaking and public affairs, focusing on debates over over climate change, energy, and sustainability. Among awards and recognition, Nisbet has been a Visiting Shorenstein Fellow on Press, Politics, and Public Policy at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government, a Health Policy Investigator at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and a Google Science Communication Fellow. In 2011, the editors at the journal Nature recommended Nisbet's research as “essential reading for anyone with a passing interest in the climate change debate,” and the New Republic highlighted his work as a “fascinating dissection of the shortcomings of climate activism."
American University communication major Colin Campbell attended a forum in Washington, DC this week assessing the use of social media strategies in politics. In a guest post, he reports on some of the key conclusions.--Matthew Nisbet
Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley is tweeting! So is James Inhofe and Nancy Pelosi. It’s a sign that social media has finally reached even the most senior of elected officials, but that doesn’t necessarily mean politicians, candidates, and their communications directors are using it correctly.
Ben Smith—of Politico fame—and a collection of other political/social media “tweeps” held a forum in Washington, DC on Monday night hosted by The George Washington University School of Media and Public Affairs to discuss how political campaigns are leveraging social media. The main take away from the evening? Simply having a Facebook page and Twitter account isn’t going to get you elected to that House seat you’re after.
While those Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, and 4Square icons might make for pretty window dressing on a candidate’s website, understanding the audience and intricacies of each platform is far more important. The problem is that many candidates have yet to realize this.
Common Mistakes that Politicos Make
Mindy Finn an online consultant for the firm EngageDC and panelist stated that campaigns are spending less than 5% of their total budget on social media creation and strategy. While such a percent may have been sufficient in the era of dialup, it’s a far cry from what campaigns should be spending in today’s political environment of constantly connected constituents.
More upsetting for social media advocates than the minuscule fraction of the budget set aside for social media, is the complete lack of understanding candidates have on how to effectively connect with their base on these platforms. Finn explained that her biggest pet peeve is how her clients typically directly connect RSS feeds from their Facebook status to their Twitter accounts: “Twitter and Facebook are two completely different platforms with distinctive audiences. When candidates do things like that it just shows how little they understand about social media and their followers and friends are going to tune them out.”
Since not all members of Congress can be as adept at using social media as Chuck Grassley, Facebook has hired Adam Conner as a privacy and public-policy director for their D.C. division. Conner helps candidates avoid embarrassing social media situations by holding free weekly training sessions with members in both parties of Congress, instructing them on how to effectively connect with their constituents through social media.
A Majority of Congress Now Have Twitter Accounts
The 2010 election cycle has seen the dawn of social media strategy in political campaigns. Ever since Obama made it cool to text blast his vice presidential selection and share what he was having for breakfast with Facebook back in 2008, more and more candidates are creating Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, and other social media accounts.
The political-twitter website “Tweetcongress,” which aggregates Twitter lists of Congressmen, finds that 252 members have verified twitter accounts. Who are all these members looking to for social media guidance? No, not to Obama (if you haven’t noticed his “cool” vibe has been waning lately) but rather, to social media demagogue Sarah Palin.
Between Palin’s Twitter and Facebook accounts, she has amassed more than 2.5 million followers (after President Obama, that is more than any other politician). What is most remarkable is not the sheer number of her followers, but the manner in which legacy media monitor these feeds.
Politico’s Ben Smith highlighted this at the forum on Monday night offering the idea that these social media sites are the new information subsidies for the mainstream press. Which begs the question, are we headed toward a social media government where policy initiatives are going to be tweeted out in fewer than 140 characters? In the interest of democracy, I hope not... #onwardto2012 !
--Colin Campbell is an undergraduate in the School of Communication at American University.
Here's the science of black holes, from supermassive monsters to ones the size of ping-pong balls.
- There's more than one way to make a black hole, says NASA's Michelle Thaller. They're not always formed from dead stars. For example, there are teeny tiny black holes all around us, the result of high-energy cosmic rays slamming into our atmosphere with enough force to cram matter together so densely that no light can escape.
- CERN is trying to create artificial black holes right now, but don't worry, it's not dangerous. Scientists there are attempting to smash two particles together with such intensity that it creates a black hole that would live for just a millionth of a second.
- Thaller uses a brilliant analogy involving a rubber sheet, a marble, and an elephant to explain why different black holes have varying densities. Watch and learn!
- Bonus fact: If the Earth became a black hole, it would be crushed to the size of a ping-pong ball.
Protected animals are feared to be headed for the black market.
In a breakthrough for nuclear fusion research, scientists at China's Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST) reactor have produced temperatures necessary for nuclear fusion on Earth.
- The EAST reactor was able to heat hydrogen to temperatures exceeding 100 million degrees Celsius.
- Nuclear fusion could someday provide the planet with a virtually limitless supply of clean energy.
- Still, scientists have many other obstacles to pass before fusion technology becomes a viable energy source.
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