Are politicians ready for social campaigning? - SmartBrief

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Are politicians ready for social campaigning?

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This post was written by Mirna Bard, a social media consultant, speaker, author and instructor of social media at the University of California at Irvine.

SmartPulse — our weekly nonscientific reader poll in SmartBrief on Social Media — tracks feedback from leading marketers about social media practices and issues.

Last week’s poll question: President Barack Obama announced his 2012 re-election campaign through Facebook, YouTube and text messaging instead of traditional media outlets. Do you think social media will play a major role in this election cycle?

  • Yes — 89.21%
  • No — 8.27%
  • Not sure — 2.52%

We saw it first in the 2008 and 2010 elections — and now we are seeing social media take even more prominence in the 2012 elections. It wasn’t much of a revelation that President Barack Obama used social media to spread the word about his re-election campaign, given his campaign history, but to not announce something so significant on national television first, demonstrates a radical shift from mass media to the one-on-one communication model.

Television was always perceived as the most influential channel of political communication. Now, the social Web may be taking over that title, since diverse individuals of all ages spend their time online to connect with others, share ideas and voice their opinions.

But, could relying on social media too much have disadvantages as well? I would say this is my main concern, and I doubt I am the only one who worries about this. Since political leaders have been accustomed to broadcast-only media for so long, I am not quite sure if many are ready for the authenticity, openness and two-way dialogue that social media requires.

In 2008, Obama used social media exceptionally well because he understood the technology and the power of the social Web, as well as its remarkable communication capabilities. Many believe the strategic use of social media helped Obama topple Republican nominee Sen. John McCain. Although social media has changed considerably since 2008, I don’t doubt that the president and his staff have a terrific social strategy lined up. However, are other candidates ready for the challenge?

Many political leaders and their staffs are still at the embryonic stage with their social media presence. Also, the more popular the social Web becomes, the more people will expect political candidates to authentically engage by addressing issues and answering questions, and not just delegating their social media engagement on to their staff. The social Web is not a broadcast-only medium and failing to interact with constituents is no longer an option for any political leader.

Do you think political leaders are social media ready? Have your political views changed due to social media?