Social Networks

Entries related to social networks, group psychology, anthropology, and really any of the social sciences.

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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Digital Identity Formation: Cyborgs, Triberr and Empire Avenue

Recently, I watched the YouTube video, We are all cyborgs now

It is a thought provoking video which I highly recommend. On Facebook, I asked what this means for the political process. Perhaps I'll write a blog post exploring this a bit later. Today, I want to explore the idea of digital identity. All of our actions online live a digital footprint, they paint a digital picture of who we are. This picture may, or may not, correspond nicely with our analog identity. We may be less inhibited online and post things that we wouldn't normally say or do in our analog lives. We may re-post things for different reasons, which at times may be hard to fathom.

A couple sites that encourage this sort of behavior are Triberr and Empire Avenue. With Triberr, you join tribes of like minded people, promoting their blog posts with the expectation that they will promote your blog posts. If you look throughout my twitter stream, you'll see links to various blog posts that I've shared. They are fairly easy to identify, the title of the blog post, a link, and then a reference to the twitter handle of the person I got the post from on Triberr. Many of the triberr posts are about social media, although some are health care related. It is a reflection of the tribes I'm part of. It is also a reflection of which posts I find most interesting or think my followers on Twitter will find most interesting.

Empire Avenue is a bit different. This is a game, where you essentially score points for social media activity. You can get extra points for doing specific social media actions, called missions. These missions may be to share someone's blog post, retweet something, like a lot of posts on someone's Facebook, recommend them on Klout, or similar tasks. I do a handful of these tasks, but I've not done a lot of them because the value of the points usually isn't worth the impact on my digital identity and I'm not sure how interested my friends, fans, followers, or other social media connections would be in the results of these various tasks.

There is a lot more to think about from the video about the impact of being cyborgs now. Hopefully, I'll find moments away from campaigning to explore more of these, especially as they relate to the intersection of being a cyborg and a candidate.

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Looking for Flowers

Every day at work, I scan Twitter, RSS feeds, Google Alerts and other sources for articles that I believe would be of interest to my coworkers. Sometimes it might be ideas for our radio show. Often, there are stories about the evolving health care policy in our country, or recent articles about health outcomes from peer reviewed journals. I keep my eyes open for articles about social media and technologies' role in health care, and try to find something unique from time to time.

Recently, I came across, The Power Of Flower Photos. The article starts, "I can't remember exactly when I received the first flower email, but I do remember it was sometime in 2005." It goes on to explain the backstory, related to a man dying of a rare disease, and ends off with"Just a quiet meditation from the dawn or the dusk — an homage to the power of friendship and the beauty it inspires."

The article struck me, as it did some of my co-workers. So, I've started adding a picture of a flow at the end of my Articles of Interest email each day. So far, these have been photographs that I've taken, modified and shared via Instagram. I have been cross posting these photographs to Twitter and Tumblr, and in turn, they get cross posted to Flickr and Facebook.

Yesterday at lunch time, I took a walk down to the river, keeping my eyes open for flowers to photograph. I saw many more flowers than I had seen other days on my walks. It reminded me of an aesthetics class I took in college where the professor bewailed those who quickly move through museums, as if they are checking off items on the bucket list; need to see Mona Lisa before I die. He spoke of these people as museum runners and reflected about how many people are museum runners in daily life.

Besides the newly discovered flowers on my lunch time walks, I've been fortunate with a few developments in my life. We've recently bought a new house and friends have been bringing us flowers as house warming gifts. At work, we are opening a new building and there have been many beautiful flowers in the new building. As I look through the photographs of my friends on Instagram, I find a lot of photographs of flowers.

It is interesting to think how dying one man's request of photographs of flowers has rippled through emails, through a story on NPR, and into my life, my blog and my social media channels.

Maybe, its time for more of us to stop and share the roses.

Photo, originally uploaded by Aldon.

Social Media and Local Politics: 2012 Amity Budget Referendum Results

Another year, another budget referendum. Last year, the referendum passed, 870 to 542. This year, it passed 917 to 597. There was also a bonding issue, which passed 952 to 558. I tweeted the results and they were cross posted to Facebook. Instead of putting the results into tables on the blog, I also created a Google Doc with the results for the past three years, together with some enrollment information.

As is usually the case around the polling location, it was congenial and there were interesting discussions. Some of which was about election day registration. With the voting systems in place, if a person is registered to vote in a different municipality, they will be able to get their registration changed to the new municipality on election day. Of course this is only for Connecticut. It would be great to see voting systems between different states connect, if even just on one by one basis, like Connecticut and Massachusetts.

Already, there is some information that gets shared back and forth between states, such as when a person changes their driver's license or registration. This can be used for updating voting information. However, it does present interesting problems for people who split their time equally between two states, or even worse, between multiple states. Besides the issues of voting, there are car registration, insurance, and tax issues.

With that, as I mentioned last year, for municipal finance issues, people who are property holders can vote in elections in Woodbridge, even if they are registered to vote elsewhere. It makes sense. If you are paying property taxes somewhere, you should have some say in how they get spent. Yet this does not mean you can register to vote in multiple places. That remains a felony.

Meanwhile, up at the capitol, the legislature was arguing about revisions to the campaign finance laws, particularly around changing the disclosure rules for independent expenditures. It passed the House and is waiting to be heard in the Senate. The discussion got into some interesting points that perhaps should be considered in separate bills.

When is Facebook activity a campaign contribution or an in kind third party expenditure? This is something that has been argued in the past. Is it the value of what is given, or the cost to give it? If I make positive comments about a candidate, and I have thousands of followers, is that worth more than a comment by someone with hundreds of followers? If I'm a paid social media personality, is the value of my comments greater than someone who is on Facebook just for fun? Does it matter if I'm posting on my own page or some specific Facebook Fan page? When is, or should a disclosure statement be issued in social media? Do you need one on each tweet in Twitter? Can all of this be dismissed as 'de minimis'?

Then there are the issues of public access television, and for that matter newsletters or other forms of publications.

With that, it's getting late, and I'll save these questions for later, perhaps while I'm covering a congressional or state convention. These conventions are coming up starting this weekend.

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Social Media and Event Planning: @CHCConnecticut, @SolomonEvents, @NoRACupcakeCo, @JordanCaterers, @ImagineThatCake

While my focus on social media really started with a political and literary bent, I cannot avoid the role of social media marketing and this week, I ran into a some good examples of how this should really be done.

@CHCConnecticut, where I work as social media manager, was celebrating its fortieth anniversary and opening a state of the art new health care facility in Middletown, CT. Throughout the process, we worked with many organizations, from architects and building contractors, through caterers and event planners.

@SolomonEvents handled key parts of the event planning. In addition, they tweeted throughout the week about the event. I was sharing tweets with Heather Solomon before I met her, and she end off the tweeting with:

The pleasure of connecting on Twitter then actually meeting in-person (@ahynes1). #WhyIEnjoySocialMedia

She talked about the cupcakes we had one evening from @NoRACupcakeCo and @WhalePack retweeted a picture she had taken. Also, joining in the discussion was the caterers, @JordanCaterers, and the bakers, @ImagineThatCake

Of course, the event was about more than just food, and there were notable dignitaries at the event. @chrisdodd, @govmalloyoffice, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, whom the Denver Post retweets messages about via @hickenTweets, and State Representative @mattlesser.

Social media helped cement relationships established during the event and allowed many people to get their messages out in a conversation about the event. It was a good example of using social media together with event planning.

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