How the Right is Owning Social Media for 2012
Hey, politically obsessed America! Retweet this:
@REPTOPOFTIXWANNABES: ur days of spin r DONE! Give us the TRUTH in 140 or stay home in 2012! #teaparty #TCOT #politics
If the above 140 characters make no sense to you and you are seeking the top of the Republican ticket for November 2012, you’ve got a problem. Forget learning the difference between the McConnell debt ceiling plan vs. Cut, Cap, and Balance. It’s time to learn the difference between a follow and a hashtag.
That’s because the next Presidential debate is coming to a computer near you. Facebook Townhall? That is so 2008. Welcome to the race for the White House 2012 style: The first ever Twitter Presidential Debate.
The debate is being hosted by TheTeaParty.net, a division of Stop the Insanity Inc., a conservative political organization. And for the first time ever, long winded politicians will be cut off not by polite moderates or pedantic political opponents but by their own long winded-ness.
For those still in the social media wilderness, Twitter is a networking tool that only allows users 140 characters (and that includes every space) to get the message out.
“Televised debates are just a dog and pony show that have devolved into little more than joint press conferences, with no substance and all posturing. In the silent medium of Twitter they won’t be able to use their oratory skills to conceal their evasive answers,” says TheTeaParty.net Media Director Dustin Stockton.
Conventional wisdom has long held that the left dominated social media while the right stumped for votes in the dark ages using emails and television. Who can forget that in the 2008 election, a tweet from then candidate Barack Obama gave the world Joe Biden as his vice presidential pick? The mainstream media was aflutter (if not a-twitter) over candidate Obama's social media brilliance and the right’s lack of it. However, conventional wisdom has failed (again). Since the Biden announcement, the most significant thing the Democrats have tweeted out is lewd pictures of Anthony Weiner.
Not so for the Republicans. While the left’s twitter usage has now netted them one lost seat, the right’s usage actually helped them pick some up. The Pew Internet and American Life Project found that in the last election, the political social media users broke 45 percent to 41 percent for Republican congressional candidates over Democratic ones. And it didn’t end with the election. Pew’s studies show more Republican voters got involved after the election and were more likely to follow a candidate and/or get information on them via Twitter or other social media sites than Democratic voters.
“Candidates who understand new media, and leverage it appropriately, can hold a major advantage,” says Erik Telford, the Director of Rightonline, the nation’s largest conservative social media event. “Online media has a proven ability to generate massive MSM [mainstream media] coverage, raise money, and organize a community of supporters to mobilize on your behalf.”
Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, Tim Pawlenty, Rick Santorum, and Newt Gingrich are all confirmed for the debate, with Gingrich leading the way with Twitter followers: topping 1 million at last count. This debate could be a game changer for any of the candidates but twittering talent will not be enough. Social media savants say the content and message of what is being tweeted out matters just as much and knowing how to use it. And while TheTeaParty.net is not using any type of verification to prove it is the actual candidate on Twitter, both Stockton and Telford say having a staffer or paid consultant tweeting instead of the candidate will be immediately noted and disavowed among the politically savvy tweeters.
But can an issue really be advanced or a candidate’s position and personality really known in 140 characters without even seeing their face or hearing their voice?
“140 characters, used properly, is enough to allow you to answer a question — but not enough to allow you to dodge one,” Says Telford.
Finally, a change we can all believe in. Let the tweets begin.
Information on TheTeaParty.net’s Presidential Twitter Debate: July 20, 2011 from 3pm to 4:30pm. On Twitter: @theteaparty_net, #140townhall
Jennifer Stefano is co-chair of The Loyal Opposition, a Tea Party/grassroots conservative organization in Pennsylvania.