This past week we saw the first real hint of the power of social media when combined with election politics. CNN ran a high energy media campaign around the social media tools it deployed during the Debate on June 13, 2011. It was cool they were using Twitter as a feedback loop, and other social media to crowd-source questions. But this is really just a first step.
A feedback loop is only as good as what goes in. After a while it becomes just that, a loop of basically the same information. The beauty of social media is it is real time, and allows for constant changes in feedback. While this depth of information could be used in multiple ways, this past debate saw a pretty basic usage. Ie, there was some quotes from twitter and a few questions generated this way. The Twitter search for #cnndebate was alive with lots of good stuff, although also filled with a lot of retweeting. What was missing was direct engagement from citizens with the debaters and or the moderator. Obviously that would be hard to stage manage. But the technology allows it.
Election 2012 is gearing up to be the first real social/mobile election. It is not just the media ramping up their use of social and mobile tools, but the candidates, polling companies, and of course the citizens. If 2008 was the year of micro-donations coming off mobile phones, 2012 is shaping up to be the year that geo-location services, global positioning satellite, and push-pull information exchange will dominate election technology. Additionally the ability of campaigns to have huge amounts of data that can be micro-diced into almost any potential personal marketing platform will change fundraising and engagement with voters dramatically. In other words for a price, campaigns can buy the same data that marketers purchase based on your online life. They will tailor fundraising and policy pitches to those that seem “receptive” to those messages based on social, mobile and other online interest factors.
Think about when you RT (retweet) a candidate or campaign. They will recognize you as an “influencer.” Take the opposite approach; write a blog taking down one of the candidates on a policy position or something else. You will quickly be recognized as potentially hostile and will develop a following of people just to monitor your coverage of the candidate or campaign.
While President Obama garnered a lot of attention for his “groundbreaking” social media applications and tools during 2008, it is clear that he will not be the only candidate using these tools and applications. In fact there are whole new ways to break down important voter data, to tell campaigns who is interested, who is not, and who is listening.
Just in the past election cycle of 2010 there were important new use models created by campaigns using social media and mobile tools. This will keep evolving as the tools become both more ubiquitous and more capable. “Moore’s Law” is working its magic with social media and mobility – smaller tools getting more powerful, and faster.
What are the implications of this? It goes far beyond the feedback loop used in the CNN debate. It gets into such areas as candidates using geo-location tools to further micro-slice up their message according to smaller areas; while still maintaining the broader message for their full constituency. Campaigns will be using sms messages tied to geo-location services to remind you to vote on election day, and you will get slammed with messages if you are a registered voter, who also voted last election. Double that on election day past noon if you have not voted yet. Oh, and the fundraising pitches? Look for them in every social doorway, on your mobile phone, in your email and even snail mail. Someone has to pay for all this social goodness, and guess whom it is?
Here is something to ponder as you follow social updates and get involved in your own social debates and engage with your candidates through various social media and mobile applications: What percentage of the decision to vote will be done through advanced, real time, mobile conversations flowing between campaigns and people’s pockets?