Author Diane Danielson has an excellent post on the role that social media played in Scott Brown's victory over Martha Coakley for the Massachusetts Senate seat. It reminded me of when I was asked for some social media thoughts on the California presidential primary by some of Hillary Clinton's pols.
Those talks were filled with a certain smugness on their part, that the California primary was in the bag and their interest in social media was how it could be used to get the word out and contributions in. They looked amused when I used such Gumbaya terminology as "listening to the voters," demonstrating that you care about what they care about."
One of them quipped, "Yeah, we'll just have Hillary sit down an email every Democrat in the state."
I think Coakley's loss reflects a certain smugness on her campaign's part. They presumed they were the heir apparent to the Kennedy throne. They didn't think Coakley needed to go out and ask the voters what was on their mind. They didn't need to do what we want people in power to do more than anything else: Listen to us. Stop talking and start listening.
Coakley started later than Scott Brown on Twitter and ended up with fewer than one-fourth of his followers. Brown was more conversational. Whoever was tweeting on his behalf really sounded like him. Whether true or not, he used social media to demonstrate a thread of sharing experience with working class people,with people facing struggles in tough times.
I don't think this election was won or lost in Twitterville any more than I believe that it was a referendum on Obama or health care. In fact, Massachusetts has the closest thing to universal health care that we have in the US.
Elections are often more complex, more layered and nuanced than pollsters and newsrooms portray them. Sure their are polarized loyalists to one party or another, but increasingly, we vote for people; people we can relate to, people who may see the issues from a similar perspective or with a similar ethic set as we do.
Scott Brown seems to have come across as a more human and accessible candidate, in my view from 3000 miles away. He used social media--along with many other channels-- to portray himself that way. Social media did not make the difference but I'm pretty sure it made a difference.
These days, politicians need to be on social media for the same reason that they go to the funerals of famous people. That where the voters are. That's how they show a human side. That's where people have access to those who are elected to serve them.
This is a global phenomenon. Elected officials are joining Twitter, not just in the US but in the UK and most recently in Japan. Why? because voters are there in increasing numbers. You can reach more of them faster and at lower cost, but more, much more than that, you can find out what is on their mind.
You can listen and respond and that is really what we want from ut elected officials.