Social Media and Swinging Votes

Recently, a friend shared an Op-Ed on Mashable entitled, Why Social Media Can’t Win Swing Votes. The title caught my attention, so I clicked on the link to see what the author had to say. Unfortunately, the title seems misleading and a better title might be, "Why Facebook Ads won't are unlikely to swing enough votes in the Presidential Election to make a difference".

It seems as if the Op-Ed makes a few significant mistakes. First, it seems to confuse social media with Facebook advertising. Social media is really about engaging people in conversations. An ad on Facebook might draw someone into the conversation, but most likely it won't. Some of the people who are starting to turn away from Facebook ads are probably people who haven't grasped the importance of engagement yet and are disappointed that their ads have been ineffective.

This continues on with the Op-Ed's discussion about numbers of followers. This isn't an especially compelling metric either. The bigger question is, how much are links to articles, videos or other content being retweeted.

The other big failure of the article is that it focuses on the Presidential race. Just about everyone knows who Obama and Romney are. There are a lot of people in my district that don't know who i am, or who my incumbent opponent is.

The article also seems to focus on elections as an either-or type decision. Either a person votes for one candidate or another. That is perhaps the biggest problem with electoral politics today, and a place where social media has the biggest potential to make a difference. As a nation, we need to move away from either-or thinking. We need to move away from thinking that electoral politics is just about which candidate you select in the voting booth.

Social Media is about conversations, and politics should be as well. How do you get people to think a little more deeply about the issues we as a people face? It is about moving people along a spectrum of involvement; getting the unregistered registered, getting the registered to vote, getting voters to become more involved in campaigns as volunteers or donors, and getting people who have been active in others campaigns to consider running for office themselves.

Social media, meeting people where they are, has a great ability to help with that. Or, it can simply be another advertising platform in a beauty contest of brands. In that role, the author of the Op-Ed is right. Let's not get stuck with that sort of social media.

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