By Kim Hart - 11/19/09 08:00 PM EST
recent gubernatorial races also successfully used social media tactics.
Republican Gov.-elect Bob McDonnell’s campaign in Virginia, for
example, had 31,000 fans on Facebook, compared with the 13,000 or so fans of his
opponent Creigh Deeds. The campaign hired an online strategy team that
used video, blog posts, e-mail, mobile, Facebook updates, Twitter and
an online action network on Ning “to create an echo chamber around the
campaign’s message,” said Mindy Finn, a partner at Engage, a political
media firm that handled online strategy for McDonnell’s campaign.
said some supporters interacted with the campaign through only one of
those social media channels, but many received information through
Republican Chris Christie also won his bid
for New Jersey’s governor’s mansion, and had more than twice as many
Facebook fans as his opponent, Gov. Jon Corzine.
associate manager of privacy and public policy for Facebook and former
director of online communications for Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.),
said that while House Republicans have led recent social media efforts in Congress, he is also working with Senate members, such as
John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), in ramping up their
use of Facebook.
“It has less to do with party lines and
more to do with individuals taking the lead in both chambers and both
parties,” Conner said. “A lot of colleagues are following more
cautiously and dipping their toes in the water.”
Of the gubernatorial races, Conner said social media is not “a silver bullet.”
“Setting up a [Facebook] page doesn’t automatically win you an election,” he said.
Congress, social media participation is, in many cases, a question of
resources. Members of both the House and Senate are hiring new-media
directors. Those who can’t afford to hire online strategists are
integrating that role with their media staffers. Job descriptions for
press secretaries and communication managers now often require Web
“A year ago, that would never have been a job
requirement,” said Shana Glickfield, a Washington new-media consultant.
“Very few offices can afford separate new-media directors, but the fact
that they’re investing in this area is very telling.”
are not standing idly by. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and
House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) both have new-media
specialists in their offices. So does Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.).
are still some hurdles to jumping on the social media bandwagon. Both
chambers have rules about official communications between Congress and
constituents, but they have not been thoroughly updated to accommodate
sites like Twitter.
“This is still an unpoliced universe when
it comes to franking rules,” Walker said. “We don’t want to step out
there and be a bad example. … At the same time, we try to make sure we
stay true to the medium. It’s a free flow of information. We don’t want
to get into the situation where every tweet or post on Facebook has to
be franked first. That goes counter to the technology.”
Finn said maintaining an authentic voice online is essential for candidates or officials trying to reach constituents.
recognize the value of engaging with supporters online, but they often
fear communicating in an open, non-controlled environment,” she said.
Nick Schaper, new-media director in Boehner’s
office, said Twitter may soon surpass YouTube in terms of reaching
large numbers of constituents.
Boehner has more than 18,000 followers on Twitter. His GOPLeader Twitter account has 14,000 followers.
“It’s not just us broadcasting the message,” he said. “You get to see what other people are saying and respond to that.”