Friday, January 30, 2009

Local Mayor Candidates And Twitter. Does It Matter?

I would like to preface this post with the fact that I am biased in my view of the upcoming Austin Mayors Race. I support Mayor Pro Tem Brewster McCracken to be the future leader of our great city.

But I do find the below observation an interesting look at the workings of social media. At the end of the day, social media is social and it has to be authentic. If you try to manipulate social media or use it just for your own PR (without legitimately engaging others) then it is not real.

The social media world is not a fad, and Barak Obama has proven that politicians can and should live online. It is a wonderful two-way communication vehicle. Obama was not the first politician to appear in social online communities, but he certainly did it better than anyone else. He was engaging and engaged. The grassroots power of those who live, work, and play in the online world is here to stay.

Brewster McCracken has a presence on Twitter and other online mediums (Long term user of LinkedIn - over 200 contacts AND Facebook - over 800 contacts). He has not just looked at these tools as something new to use for the election.

He has always been a supporter of the local entrepreneurial tech community and he understands that Austin's future depends on the same innovation and vision that matter to growing businesses. Our city has never looked backwards or avoided the risks that come with growth.

Only one of Brewster's two opponents is on Twitter (interesting, however that many of the candidates for City Council are also "tweeting"). Lee Leffingwell is on Twitter as @TheLeeTeam, not as @LLeffingwell (which makes his involvement appear to be a campaign stunt). Brewster is there clearly as @BMcCracken. He is not using it as part of a campaign, he is there as a human being. A real person. He is communicating with people on Twitter. Sure, he is running for mayor, but as a person.... not a team of campaign people.

It is really, really him talking with his followers on Twitter. I know, because I have talked to him about it. It is not some random campaign staffers filling up Twitterville with more noise by chatting away in 140 characters or less. Brewster is interested in using Twitter, learning about Twitter (and all things that are impacting our society), and connecting with constituents. He knows that real people participate in social media communities, and thus he sees the value in being an active participant in social media himself.

Twitter is not for everyone, and many who read this blog might say "Twitter - waste of time - who cares if a mayor candidate is on Twitter". But this goes deeper than than the debate of the value of Twitter, or any other social media platform. It is about authenticity.

Everyone believes President Obama was personally involved with his campaign social media strategy... NOBODY thinks McCain was involved with his (yes, McCain had a social media strategy, too... just not executed very well - and all run by staffers).

I could be wrong about Mr. Leffingwell. Maybe he does all his own "tweeting". But in my opinion he is only on Twitter for the election, telling his 83 Twitter friends (84, I now follow him, too) about his latest fundraiser or other activities. From looking at it, there is a lot of talking "at" people in his Twitter strategy. I question why Leffingwell's Team is even there at this point (maybe because Brewster is there? Ouch, not the right reason to join a social media community! His page appeared three days after McCracken joined Twitter).

Why does this matter to regular people and businesses? (AKA, those of us NOT running for mayor). It matters because the social media train is leaving the station, and we can choose how we want to ride... or if we are going to let it pass us by. This does not mean everyone has to jump on the train RIGHT NOW (you have to want to be there).... And fortunately there will be other stops along the way, and you will be welcome when the time is right!! Twitter is not so much the social media "answer" (I still question it in some ways) as it is a high profile case study of how to authentically engage with others via an internet community.

If you treat social media as you do traditional advertising / marketing (one way communication), you are old school and everyone will know it. Twitter is not about a team of people trying to market a candidate. It is about real people (not hired staff) who are actively sharing with other human beings.

On a funny side note, @TheLeeTeam deleted or "blocked" the people involved with the McCracken Campaign from following them on Twitter. Their "tweets" are not private (you can see them at www.twitter.com/theleeteam even if you are not an anointed and approved follower), so blocking them was only an "anti-social-social-media-maneuver". In social media, being anti-social can be a bad bad thing.

I don't think that Brewster will block any of the citizens of Austin from his Twitter stream...even if they support his opponents. I would be offended if someone who wanted to be mayor blocked me on Twitter because I supported the other guy. I thought in today's era of "change" we were supposed to be beyond such things.

Have A Great Day.

thom

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

Lee Leffingwell's Facebook page appears to have been started on 1/25/2009. Maybe the campaign was afraid he would look out of touch if he did not have one.

Just saying.

Josh Dilworth said...

You are 100% on the mark. And I heart Brewster, too, btw.

Following/blocking, first of all, is ridiculous and kind of unnerving coming from a person aspiring to public office.

Also, have you seen Tweet Congree?
http://www.tweetcongress.org

I think that it represents a big change, AND it was built by Texans;)
http://joshdilworth.com/post/65622695/a-new-breed-of-twitter-apps

I dig and agree with what you’re getting at. Twitter in a lot of ways is a forcing function or a litmus test for, well – douchebaggery;) Or, more professionally put – normal person-ness, or proper socialization, and/or just in general “getting it” – and actually, in a certain way, I like that – and I feel comfortable judging people based on their Twitter behavior. I don’t buy the technology/accessibility argument – that’s a lot like saying that you’re sorry for cussing me out last night when you were drunk (i.e. exculpation). We’ve all done some stupid things when we were drunk (or using Twitter) but you don’t all of a sudden stop being yourself. And those discerning minds among us can see right through it, just as you have in your post. Twitter as a lens (one lens maybe) but a lens nonetheless.

Obama’s a great example too because if he isn’t personally Twittering, there is a cohesive and consistent personality and tone and story/narrative – such that Obama isn’t just a person – Obama is a movement – which is what happens when authenticity and credibility explode at critical mass.

A friend of mine loves to say that Twitter has jumped the shark because it is like a flame (and we are the mosquitos). Except we’re really annoying mosquitos. Hehehe. If Twitter is a bar, normal people are going to come into the bar and think – Abort! – That’s the bar where all the annoying, fake people hang out! And then they’ll proceed to the nearest dive where all of their real friends are just. Having. A beer. And talking.

I disagree with said friend in his conclusion (which is partly in jest), but I see what he is seeing -- there’s enough inauthenticity going on that it’s going to come back and smack people on the patootie sooner or later.

Okay, Mr. Metaphor here, signing off. . .

;)

Ari Herzog said...

I must disagree with you, Thom.

Barack Obama and his campaign team used new media sites -- they created fan pages on MySpace and Facebook, broadcasted locational press releases on Twitter, uploaded videos on YouTube, and wrote blog entries at barackobama.com, but none of that was engaging. None of that was participatory. None of those social networking sites gave me the impression he or his team were involved.

Rather, I felt they were using the tools as tools, not as vehicles for engagement with would-be voters.

Many people felt connected to the candidate. Not me.

His team did a great job using the social technologies, but at the end of the day, they only used them. There was no interaction. People posted comments on all of those sites, but the team never interacted with comments of their own.

Mayors have an easier shot, because they can engage.

But Obama didn't. To me.

Mary Pat said...

Thom-
Your bias is clear in this post. But if the lee team really blocked the mccracken people, they should admit the mistake... as that was petty. I doubt they really did that as they are smarter than that.

Anonymous said...

You missed Carole Strayhorn's attempt at Twitter at www.twitter.com/carole4austin

It is not her, but her team, and clearly says so.

Seems they all feel the need to display a Twitter logo on their page to look cool, even if they are not really Twitter users.

Anonymous said...

I think you are silly, attacking "the Lee" team for a delayed launch of campaign related activities. Maybe it has to do with a delayed launch of a campaign?

I am just saying the Brewster crew might have had some questions if there were campaign related activities going on before it was legal. No?

So Brewster had a several months head start and he only got his tweeter set up 3 days earlier? Ouch.

A new media plan is now standard practice in a campaign, its too bad it took team McCrackin two months to figure it out.

Anyways, nice blog posting, you really do seem well versed on the inner working of the Obama new media planning.

Thom Singer said...

This reply is to the last anonymous poster (the one who said I am silly. FYI.. i think that was a nice choice of words.... I like being "silly", and think it was a kind choice of words to disagree with someone).

I am cool with anonymous comments as long as they are nice... and this one was. I did not approve one comment today that was BIG TIME nasty about my favorite candidate!

Yes, you make a good point about the campaign related activity coming up when it did. And true, the joining of Twitter only occurred 3 days after McCracken.

My point was he has been on other social media platforms for years (LinkedIn and Facebook)... not just joining the game for campaigning, but using them as a two way communication tool in his life, not just his life as a politician.

I find it interesting that all everyone who runs for office now must jump onto Twitter just "because it is trendy". My point is that maybe if it is not really part of the politician's life and personality....they can skip it rather than be a poser.

I admit, and I think I stated, I don't know Lee's motivation. I make assumptions about his adoption of being on social media, and it is always bad to just assume.

But, I am not a journalist (and I NEVER pretend to be one!), I am just a guy who writes a blog that I hope people enjoy and can learn some from.

In the end, I share my two cents and people either like it or don't like it.

I was glad to see that the Lee Leffingwell Campaign did NOT "block" me as a follower on Twitter.

thom

Christine Harmel said...

Thom, I had the very same experience, having met Brewster McCracken at two events in Jan. - BioBash for the biotech community and GeekAustin E-Nauguration. I added @bmccracken on Twitter and invited him to the Biotech Austin Facebook group I launched. He surprised me by not only accepting, but taking the time to write a kind personal note. And then by giving my new FB group some momentum by tweeting about it. It really is him, and he really does use the technology. That was cool to see. Like you said, "Social media is social" and authentic. That's where the impact comes from.

RPB said...

Hum, Now I know what you were thinking about while we were debating off topic subjects!

I agree with your comments regarding Brewster and his support of the tech industry - he has supported our industry from day one. while his recent efforts have been focused upon clean energy he has been a strong supporter of the wireless industry, bio, and digital media.

Oh, final comment - the hi-tech happy hour rocked! Really great group of people, it is so much fun to see the growth.