Doug Haslam

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Are the candidates using MySpace and other social media well?

UPDATE: The article has appeared, and I was favored with a two-word direct quote, along with Scott Monty (zero words direct quote– ahem), and Steve Garfield, who actually said something worth quoting….

UPDATE II: See this exchange between C.C. Chapman and the Edwards campaign. a combination of social media outreach initiative and response to constructive criticism. This is why I think the Edwards campaign gets it.

Are the candidates using MySpace and other social media well?

That question was posed to me by a writer for the new BostonNOW newspaper this weekend, as mentioned in my previous post. I answered the best I could, but I will leave it up to her to decide whether or not my comments are worthy of appearing in her article.

I can be too freakin’ humble sometimes. OK, I’m an expert– as much of an expert on social media as someone who knows how to find my blog to read it.

I thought I would put some version of my thoughts on the subject, since I did try to do a little homework. Feel free to disagree with me in comments.

First: if the candidates are not using social media to interact directly with their constituents, and of course draw new ones, then they are not being social. That’s what strikes me about the MySpace pages. They don’t feel very interactive. Sure, you can join as a”friend” and leave comments, but looking at the sites, I don’t see any real invitations for interaction on the whole. Is that a problem with the candidates or MySpace? Both, probably.

The MySpace pages are a great way to get information, videos, and links to research candidates and see what their policies are, but that’s about it– their own Web sites are — or can be– much better looking than any MySpace template, and carry the same information– and also offer as much interaction as the candidate wants. I sent messages through MySpace to all of the candidates I could find to ask them what they expected from social media. I didn’t expect them to answer me on a holiday weekend, but I thought I would try. I don’t expect answers at all, to be honest.

So- candidates on MySpace? whatever. Yawn.

Some other media have shown promise. One is Twitter. John Edwards has been a fairly consistent Twitterer over the last few months, and any questions about his “tweets” have been answered– it is Edwards. I actually corresponded with the Senator directly over a blogging question, and that coupled with others’ anecdotes, leave no doubt that he is actually doing his own Twittering. I was impressed. Not so much Barack Obama, whose inaugural tweet, now deleted, about his excitement prior to the first debate, was so obviously not him it was painful and embarrassing. As I commented to someone online that evening, “Four exclamation points does not sound very presidential.” Perhaps his subsequent tweets are authentic, but for me the damage was done.

The biggest surprise? Hillary Clinton’s video contest, where she asked for people to submit entries for her campaign song. It is participatory and fun, even if the topic is less than substantial. The second video, in which she reviews some of the entries, is a scream.
[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LClOHUFUC5g]
This contest is great for lightening up her image and involving the younger generation of voters– generally an apathetic bunch last seen getting excited in the 1992 election over the boxers vs. briefs question (yes, Bill Clinton was involved).

In the end, it’s not the media but the messages that will sway voters– I hope. The candidates are going to the new media because they see new voters there. In the best cases, like Edwards on Twitter, they see a way to engage with their voters and respond to them. This is why I am interested to see if John McCain gets some traction in social media. He has a great reputation for being responsive to the smallest media requests. Will that translate to the new media? I have seen nothing yet, but I am hopeful.

By the way: on the local level, I am as ever a huge fan of the community blog TheGardenCity.net. One of the reasons is that a number of the city of Newton, Mass.’s aldermen and women participate by posting to the blog and participating in the debates with other citizens. Now this is real political communication using an online social medium.

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11 Responses to Are the candidates using MySpace and other social media well?

  1. I don’t like any politicians, so I can be a rather impartial analyst of their campaigns and use of social media.

    Is it opportunism & exploitation? Or a sincere attempt to connect with audiences, deliver a message, and Listen to Constituents?

    I complained harshly to Edwards via @johnedwards on Twitter that his tweets bored the F out of me.

    Soon after, he started posting real content, beyond the lame “Had a great meeting in Arkansas” type crud. He started Twittering substance, with links to anti-war statements, etc.

    Obama has Twittered half-heartedly, just a few times if I recall. Few and far between. That sends a negative message to Twitterville: you’re not important.

    But Twitter is SEO magic. The politicians are dumb to miss the Search Engine and buzz generation power of Twitter, Jaiku, Spock, Freebase, etc.

    I really like Billary’s “help me pick a theme song”. It is first class all the way. (As a smart aleck I “wrote in” the song “Too Dead for Me” by Atari Teenage Riot).

    I don’t like Billary Clinton. But I have to reluctantly admit: she is a class act online, with that video that is half self-parody.

    Whoever assembled this “vote for theme song” promo has their act together. Funny, and it makes you like her.

    Self-parody is the opposite of arrogance. Will she corner the market on this powerful ploy?

    Political candidates have the people to swarm the many socnets and make a splash, if done with the Billary style.

    They ought to be on Campfire, Facebook, Freebase, Spock, Twitter, Jaiku, del.icio.us, folkd, as many as possible.

    But MySpace? I’d skip that ugly rotting toilet.

    Going to print this post w/my comment, and mail it to my contact at NBC affiliate WEEK TV (Peoria, IL) who have assigned me the task of clueing them in on “Upcoming Elections and Web 2.0″

    http://twitter.com/vaspers

  2. Doug Haslam says:

    I am still in shock about the Hillary/self-deprecation thing. I didn’t think she had it in her.
    And I forgot to add that she seems to have cooled off any criticisms of the “Vote Different” ad parody. Somebody recognized she needed to juice up the likability and she has responded.

    And Vaspers, you are more colorful in stating so than I, but essentially you summed up my feelings on MySpace– I don’t think it’s useful or interesting.

  3. Scott Monty says:

    Doug – great points. I began to follow up with a comment, but it got lengthy, so I wrote a blog post about it: http://www.scottmonty.com/2007/05/are-presidential-candidates-using.html

  4. Doug Haslam says:

    Thanks Scott– great post. They interviewed you as well, hmmm? I thought I was special, lol.

    I challenge you to a word count duel in the final article

  5. Scott Monty says:

    Spoken like a true PR guy. ;-)

    I like challenges, but I’ll issue you an alternative: the one whose quotes were butchered the least.

  6. Adam Zand says:

    Hi guys,
    I wouldn’t give up on MySpace just yet – I’m sure active user base is far under 30 million, but it is a compelling audience with wide demographic appeal. MySpace is also reaching out to “help” candidates build sites and providing a mechanism for donations: http://www.ft.com/cms/s/5c8538de-0d5d-11dc-937a-000b5df10621.htm

    Vaspers, never had the chance to tell you before now how much (big time) I like Visible Music.

  7. Doug Haslam says:

    Adam,

    I agree that they are reaching a demographic–a new one for them, so getting out the messages to a new group is vital.

    I just thought there wasn’t much of a n interactive touch to the MySpace pages, and the MySpace format is part of the problem.

  8. Doug Haslam says:

    Scott,

    I would say your quote was butchered the least, in that you didn’t get a direct quote in the article. I believe I actually did say the two words Danielle used, and they are accurate.

    Looks like I win the word count challenge, if we are going by direct quotes. Garfield buries us both by that measure.

  9. Great Hillary video. I actually laughed at that one.

  10. Scott Monty says:

    Wow. Zero. That sucks. But seeing as she didn’t even get the name my town right, I’m calling a technical foul and invalidating the contest. ;-)

  11. Doug Haslam says:

    Well, my employers are probably nonplussed that they were mentioned as a nameless “Woburn technology PR firm.”

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