Moving from Social Media 1.0 to 2.0

January 25, 2011

We have seemingly reached the point where social media is accepted in all crevices of Capitol Hill.  A vast majority of members from both parties have twitter and/or Facebook pages, and are updating them regularly with posts highlighting legislative achievements and local news appearances.  So now what?

While a majority of politicians have social media pages, they are still not leveraging their full capabilities.  It is not enough to tweet and post on Facebook, the true power in social media is its ability to inspire action.  Matt Lira, new media director for House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, said in a recent Politico article that social media’s “real potential lies in organizing government itself and how it functions.”[1]

There is no formal definition of social media 1.0 and 2.0, but here is my vision.  Social media 1.0 is what you currently see coming from most Member offices.  It involves basic posting on Facebook and Twitter and floor speech recordings on YouTube.  Its goal is to supplement traditional media coverage and draw attention to a Member’s legislative achievements.

Social media 2.0 is a planned and clearly orchestrated attempt to inspire action among its followers.  Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube posts are coordinated to present a central theme and encourage followers to express their feelings through replies or definitive action.  All social media postings are integrated to ensure a consistent message.  In addition, new forms of technology – such as mobile – are leveraged to enhance exposure.

A recent Roll Call article discussing radio’s influence on Congress included a quote from Rachel Maddow noting that “comparatively speaking, messaging on the left is much more ad hoc, much less disciplined and repetitive, and much less wide-reaching.”[2] The fact is Republican social media has been much more coordinated, with many more GOP members leveraging Web channels, as noted in our past article “Enthusiasm or Emphasis?“.  While social media is not the only reason for greater Republican messaging coordination, it is an important one.

Need a lesson on the power of social media 2.0?  Look to private business or entertainment.  Watch television commercials and see how the advertisements are encouraging you to log online or visit a Facebook page for more information.  Congressional communications in the digital age is about salesmanship as much as it is about substance.  And Members of Congress that harness a coordinated message supplemented by next generation social media tactics will be the ones to prevail.


Enthusiasm or Emphasis?

October 24, 2010

Recent studies have found Republicans capturing a decided advantage over Democrats in the social media sphere. A September study by OhMyGov finds Republican Members of Congress outdistancing their Democratic counterparts on Facebook by more than 2-to-1. The gap is also widening, with the Republican Facebook following increasing by 35 percent from May 1 to August 31, compared to 22 percent by Democrats. A recent Burston-Marsteller report found similar numbers for Twitter. Republican campaign-focused Twitter accounts average 4,820 followers versus 2,972 for Democrats. Of the top ten most followed Twitter accounts, eight are Republicans.

According to the OhMyGov report, on Election Day in 2008, President Obama’s Facebook page had more than 112,000 fans compared to Senator McCain’s 4,600. The Democrats’ social media dominance seemed as firmly entrenched as their Congressional majorities. But in a span of two years – just as they are on the cusp of flipping the makeup of Congress –­ Republicans have captured the social media market. The question is how? Is it firmly the result of voter enthusiasm? Or have the Republicans placed a greater emphasis on social media and used it to ignite an anti-Democratic fervor?

Accounting for official Congressional social media pages, Republicans Members of Congress have 133 Twitter pages (61%) and 206 Facebook pages (96%), according to Democratic Members of Congress total 99 Twitter pages (32%) and 238 Facebook pages (76%). These numbers demonstrate that Republicans place a greater emphasis on digital communications than their Democratic counterparts.

Heading into the 2010 midterm elections, no constituency has shown more enthusiasm than the Tea Party. A recent CNN poll finds that 73 percent of Tea Party supporters are “very enthusiastic” about voting in November. Consequently only 43 percent of Democrats and 57 percent of Republican say the same. And these numbers are reflective in campaign social media statistics. According to a recent study by, four of the top seven Senate campaign social media followings – when combining Facebook and Twitter followers – are Tea Party backed candidates. These politicians include Jim Demint, Marco Rubio, Rand Paul and Sharron Angle.

While far from being statistically significant, these numbers prove that both enthusiasm and emphasis are necessary to build a social media following. In 2010, the Republican Party has both – its base is much more engaged and party leaders are effectively capitalizing on that fervor through multimedia means – reminiscent of President Obama’s campaign in 2008.


Putting the Sport in Politics

September 12, 2010

How can politicians cross the political divide and connect with their constituents?  One sure fire way is sports.

This is nothing new. Politicians have been attending sporting events since the 19th century. President Howard Taft began the tradition of the ceremonial first pitch to start the baseball season in 1910. But in 2010, politicians are demonstrating their team spirit digitally.

For the Labor Day matchup between Virginia Tech and Boise State, Senators Mark Warner (D-VA) and Jim Risch (R-ID) publically made a bet that the Senator representing the losing team will have to stand on the steps of the Capitol wearing the winning team’s jersey. Senator Warner publicized the bet on his Twitter and Facebook pages. Unfortunately for the Virginia Senator, Boise State won 33-30. Hope Senator Warner enjoys wearing blue.

In preparation for last year’s Nebraska and Missouri football game, Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) incited a prank war with Senator Ben Nelson (D-NE). McCaskill raided Nelson’s office, replacing family pictures with doctored photos of Nelson dawning Missouri gear. McCaskill then posted the new pictures on her Twitter page.

In addition to what they can do while in office, politicians running for office can garner extensive value from advertising with local sports teams. Senator Richard Burr (R-NC), a Wake Forest University graduate running for reelection, is placing campaign advertisements on Wake Forest’s official sports Website: He also acknowledged Wake Forest football and North Carolina Tarheels football on his Twitter page last week.

Nothing can unite a constituency more than sports. Fans quickly dismiss political ideology for tailgates and touchdowns. Politicians that can tap into the energy of a sports fan base can connect with their constituents while demonstrating a commitment to the town or state. And the proliferation of social media tools such as Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare present new, exciting ways to root for the home team.

Finding Your Place with Facebook

August 25, 2010

We discussed the idea of location-based applications previously on this site (Mapping Congress), but Facebook took the concept to whole another level with the introduction of Facebook Places last week. Instantly, millions of users are thrown into the location-based applications stratosphere.

Even more exciting, Foursquare and Gowalla are collaborating with Facebook on the project, meaning a user can post a location on Gowalla and have it automatically appear on their Facebook page.

While not wasting time rehashing what we previously wrote regarding the potential of location-based applications, the fact that Facebook has joined the party instantly increases its importance. Facebook Places can have an instant impact on campaigns as they drive supporters to events and voters to the polls in November.

Currently, Facebook Places is only available through Facebook’s iPhone app. It will expand to include Android and Blackberry users in the near future. So while the service may not affect all of Facebook’s more than 500 million users, it still has a significant, and vastly growing, segment of the community.

Facebook’s announcement also proves location-based applications are here to stay, at least in the near term. The collaboration between Facebook, Foursquare, and Gowalla gives the location-based market some much needed direction, and these three companies should capture a significant market share through the coming months.

Call for Free Using Facebook

August 8, 2010

Facebook may soon become even more important to politicians. Vonage has launched an application that lets people call their Facebook friends for free. The app, available for iPhone, iPod Touch and Android devices, uses Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) technology to make calls. Later versions will include instant messaging and SMS technology. How can politicians and campaigns take advantage of this?

Well, a candidate running for public office can call (and later text) for free every Facebook friend who has an iPhone or Droid and has downloaded the app. This service can reduce campaign costs and serve as another avenue to generate donations and support. Also, campaign volunteers can use it as a service to connect and coordinate activities with each other. As the campaign rolls into GOTV mode or even on Election Day, this is another channel candidates can use to drive voters to the polls.

The technology is still in its infancy and its affects on 2010 may be minimal. But this is certainly a new technology which could have big political impacts in the near-future.

To learn more about the service, read The Guardian’s article here.