November Event Recap: Politics Gets Social

The midterm elections are behind us – victory celebrations are winding down, wounds are beginning to heal, and Christine O’Donnell jokes are no longer en vogue. As the nation’s capitol prepares for a new political season, SMC-DC took some time to reflect on the election and the role of social media in the political process.

This Wednesday Politics Got Social. The evening started off as any political event should – with networking! SMC-DC members from the left, right, and middle came together to mingle and exchange business cards at our venue, Pillsbury Law, and then to ask questions to our expert panelists, who provided three unique perspectives on politics and social media.

Katie Harbath (@KatieHarbath), Chief Digital Strategist at the National Republican Senatorial Committee shared an insider perspective on social media and the campaign process. Her advice for integrating social media into a political campaign: Start now! Ok, ok, start right after you read this post. She also shared that transparency and authenticity are key and recommended that politicians tweet themselves, rather than leaving it to staffers. Participants also wanted to know – who has been successful in integrating social media into campaigning? Katie offered up Scott Brown as a prime example. He started engaging constituents online early. And even though he initially communicated with a small number of fans, the quality was high, thus increasing loyalty. One way to start growing your online fan base is “after the handshake.” When a politician meets someone in person, they should ask them to become an online follower.

Fundraising also plays an essential role in the political process. Mike Mayernick (@mmayernick) founder of social giving startup, giv.to (@givto), shared his perspective on how social media comes into play. Fundraising is a “call to action” and social media may not be the right forum but with a strategic process it can be a good starting point. His recommendation: start by sharing an article that will stir up support, next create a petition for your supporters to sign. As participants sign up for emails, funds tend to follow. Experience shows this method garners much higher giving rates than generic pitches. Michael also emphasized the importance of an integrated campaign when using social media in politics.

And did you know there is a job that actually requires you to watch The Daily Show and Colbert Report? Well there is, but sorry, it’s taken. Lauren Feldman of American University is one of the nation’s leading researchers in political communications. Participants were eager to hear her insight and findings from a research study she conducted at the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear. One interesting nugget is that 25% of those surveyed said that “political divisiveness” is the most important problem facing our country, distinguishing rally attendees from the larger population. She later discussed that comedy can be used to awaken the political junkie in those who wouldn’t normally participate.

As the evening wrapped up, panelists discussed how social media is still a new phenomena in politics. Many politicians last campaigned in 2004 when these digital resources didn’t even exist. Additionally, “political rules were not written for a new media world.” Although the rules pose some obstacles for politicians, the public is fortunately becoming more forgiving of online gaffes, so not being able to spell a word, like say “potato”, in a Tweet won’t necessarily make you the nation’s laughing stock.

All in all, it was a fun and enlightening event. I know we will all look forward to see what our experts have to say when the 2012 elections ramp up.

Thanks again to our host – Pillsbury Law, our panelists, and to all those who attended. Stay tuned for pictures and video from the event!

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